The Texas prosecutor appointed by Governor Rick Perry to chair a state forensics commission won’t say when, if ever, his panel will hear from an arson expert who had been scheduled to testify about a flawed arson investigation that may have led to the death of an innocent man.
Asked, during a state Senate hearing, about when the Texas Forensic Science Commission would hear from nationally recognized expert Craig Beyler, John Bradley declined to give a specific answer.
A reminder on the back story: In September, just days before the panel was scheduled to hear Beyler’s testimony, Perry, a Republican, shook up the panel’s membership, installing Bradley as the new chair. Bradley promptly cancelled Beyler’s planned appearance.
Beyler had previously released a report that found serious flaws in the arson investigation that led to the conviction and 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham. Perry, as governor, had signed off on the execution, despite a last-minute plea from Willingham’s lawyer that cited evidence the probe was plagued with missteps.
There is some evidence that Perry acted to deliberately stymie the panel’s probe of the Willingham case, in order to protect himself politically.
Bradley certainly doesn’t appear to be in a rush to get the commission’s inquiry into the case back on the fast track. He told the hearing today that the panel might hold a meeting in January to discuss internal housekeeping matters, and that it would be “presumptuous” to predict when the panel will return to the Willingham case.
The GOP gubernatorial primary, in which Perry faces a strong challenge from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, will be held in March 2010.