John Bradley has second thoughts about handling of Willingham case

John Bradley, the Williamson County district attorney and former chairman of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, appears to be having a crisis of conscience. In a revealing interview with the Texas Tribune, he discusses his regrets in the case of Michael Morton, who was wrongly convicted of murdering his wife. Bradley didn’t prosecute Morton, but he fought efforts to test DNA and to release key evidence that the former district attorney had withheld.

Bradley now acknowledges that his efforts helped keep an innocent man in prison. Bradley says he’s learned from this experience, that he will try to see cases from both sides and that DAs need to be more “more than tough on crime.”

Unfortunately, Bradley wasn’t more than tough on crime during his tenure at the helm of the Forensic Science Commission. He was widely viewed as a Perry appointee who was simply doing the governor’s bidding. Bradley managed to derail forward progress in the Cameron Todd Willingham investigation, as he cancelled testimony from a fire scientist who was raising serious questions about whether an innocent man had been executed.

Bradley both defends his actions and backtracks a bit as he talks with the Tribune about his tenure on the commission. He says that an opinion from the Texas attorney general proved him correct that the commission did not have the authority to investigate the Willingham case. But while discussing his newfound respect for the Innocence Project, he also says that he might have handled the Willingham case differently if he knew then what he knows now.

Critics are questioning whether all of Bradley’s introspection and progressive thinking have anything to do with his re-election bid. Unfortunately, this all comes too late for the purposes of the Forensic Science Commission or the Willingham investigation. But it is heartening to hear Bradley say that he’s learned from these mistakes. His actions going forward will provide more insights into whether that’s indeed the case.