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Thursday, May 20, 2010

New Website for Texas Forensic Science Commission, but still no progress on Todd Willingham Investigation

The Texas Forensic Science Commission has redesigned its website. It is still not very modern looking, so its hard to tell why they bothered. Maybe it is because they are just trying to stall the investigation into the case of Todd Willingham. Remaking their website gave them something to do for awhile besides doing the work they are supposed to be doing - investigating the faulty forensic science used to convict Willingham.

The new website says all the terms of the Commission members are set to expire on Sept 1, 2011. However, the bill (HB 1068 in 2005) that created the Commission set the terms for the two members appointed by the Attorney General to expire in even-numbered years. Those members are probably Sarah Kerrigan and Arthur Jay Eisenberg. The TFSC website says their terms expire on Sept 1, 2011, but according to HB 1068 they would seem to expire on Sept 1, 2010. The information could be a just an error, but it could be that the TFSC doesn't really know when the terms expire. 

Also, we know that Rick Perry replaced some of his appointees last year two days before the commission was set to talk about the Beyler report, but does anyone know when the Lt Governor notified his appointees (Jean Hampton, Stanley Hamilton and Garry Adams) that they were being reappointed? Their terms also supposedly expired on Sept 1, 2009. They have probably been officially reappointed, but were they reappointed before or after Rick Perry made his move to replace his own appointees? Did the Lt Governor let them stay on as holdover appointments without officially reappointing them, and then after the Perry hullabaloo in late Sept 2009, did the Lt Governor then decide to just reappoint his appointees? If so, it speaks to the political nature of Perry's decision.
(b) Each member of the commission serves a two-year term.
The term of the members appointed under Subsections (a)(1) and (2)
expires on September 1 of each odd-numbered year. The term of the
members appointed under Subsection (a)(3) expires on September 1 of
each even-numbered year.


The Commission has still not changed its policy on holding secret meetings that are closed to the public and members of the press.


The "Investigative Committee on the Willingham/Willis Case" of the Texas Forensic Science Commission is holding secret, private, closed door meetings without any public notice to discuss the Cameron Todd Willingham investigation.

Other committees of the TFSC are also being held in secret. Since the four-person Willingham/Willis committee does not form a quorum of the entire nine member Commission, it is not subject to the Open Meetings Act — which means it can legally deliberate in secret. However, the members of the Commission can vote to make all meetings public and to follow the rules of the Open Meetings Act.

Unless, the policy is changed, the public will not be privy to discussions by the four-member panel of the Commission that is responsible for scrutinizing the reliability of the arson investigation used to convict Todd Willingham.

Instead, the panel will report its conclusions to the nine-member commission, which will make the matter final.

Asked if he favored allowing the public to attend such sessions, TFSC Chair John Bradley responded, “No,”.

If you believe that all subcommittee meetings of the Texas Forensic Science Commission should be public and not private, secret closed door meetings, then please join us in writing commission Chair John Bradley and other Commission members urging them to make the meetings public and to post notices on the Commission website of when and where the subcommittee meetings will take place.

Shortly before Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 for an arson that killed his three young daughters, Texas Governor Rick Perry had received a request that he delay the execution based on an arson expert's report that evidence presented at the trial did not show that the fire had been deliberately set.

Dr. Craig Beyler, one of the nation's top arson experts, who after a search was hired by the Forensic Science Commission to investigate the case, submitted a report to the Commission in 2009 that the fire may well have not been caused by arson at all.

Secret, closed-door meetings thwart transparency and erode public confidence in the commission's work, which has already been compromised by Governor Rick Perry's abrupt dismissal of the previous chair and three other members of the TFSC two days before the Commmission was scheduled to discuss the report by Dr Craig Beyler.


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i notice the news section of the new TFSC links to 404. I wonder why they would launch a website that doesn't completely work. Maybe they're waiting on some POSITIVE news about them?

Patricia