Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Senate Criminal Justice Committee to Meet Nov 10 About Todd Willingham Investigation by Texas Forensic Science Commission

WFAA is reporting that Senator Whitmire will hold a hearing of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on November 10 to hear from the new chair of the Texas Forensic Science Commission about the Todd Willingham investigation.

"I'm concerned about the process," said Sen. John Whitmire, (D) Houston. "It looks to me like it might have gotten off schedule and where do you go forward? Where we go from here is my greatest concern and my responsibility."

Texas executed Willingham in 2004 for the arson deaths of his three young daughters in Corsicana on Dec. 23, 1991.

But, as the Texas Forensic Science Commission investigated whether Willingham was innocent and convicted on junk science, Gov. Rick Perry, who faces a tough reelection in March, replaced that commission's chairman.

The governor’s new appointee, John Bradley, a respected district attorney in Williamson County north of Austin, canceled the upcoming hearing, essentially stalling the truth.

Bradley told News 8 he first has to get up to speed on what the Forensic Science Commission does before he moves forward. He would not say when he would call a meeting, or more importantly, whether he would even revive the Willingham investigation.

But, Whitmire, who authored the bill that created the Texas Forensic Science Commission, said he will call a special hearing of the Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee on November 10 in Austin in order to urge Bradley to continue the Willingham investigation and explain what he needs to do a "first class job."

"He's not going to stop the truth from coming out, though," said Gary Udashen, a Dallas attorney and board member for the Texas Innocence Project.

He praised Whitmire for pushing the investigation forward.

"Good for Senator Whitmire," Udashen said. "Somebody needs to pursue this. The governor's going to do what he can to stop this. I don't think he can fire Sen. Whitmire, so good for him."

"I know John [Bradley] hopes to some day run for something bigger," Sen. Whitmire said. "So, here's his opportunity for him to do the right thing, and I've told him that."

Whitmire said he would give Bradley a month to make a plan and get familiar with issues the Forensic Science Commission faces. Willingham’s case is a potentially embarrassing one that could determine whether Texas executed an innocent man.

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