On Friday, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued a ruling on limitations he believes are imposed on the Forensic Science Commission’s ability to investigate past cases, even those which result in death sentences.
The opinion was issued following a request by the former Chairman of the commission, the from Williamson County John Bradley. The Forensic Science Commission first came under fire when they looked into a murder investigation which ended in the imposition of a death sentence and the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham. Experts on arson were hired by the commission to do an independent study and determined that the evidence used to gain Willingham’s conviction did not meet accepted scientific standards. Soon after his information was made known to the public, Governor Rick Perry appointed Bradley as Chairman. Bradley lost no time in taking actions which many believe were designed to undermine the ability of the commission to challenge trial evidence.
Interestingly, the AG opinion was requested by John Bradley, who has since been replaced as chairman of the committee.
The new chairman, Dr. Neezam Peerwani, disagrees with his predecessor on the duty for forensic scientists and believes that duty includes the right to correct past mistakes when science changes or documentable errors are made.
On a side note, in reality the opinion is just that, an opinion, and is not binding on the courts or anyone else. However, what it does do is provide fodder for those judges, appellate judges, Court of Criminal Appeal justices, and other politicians who are more concerned with doing what they perceive will get them reelected than what is in the interest of justice. Shame on them.
For those of you who want to read the AG opinion, it can be found here in PDF format. If you disagree with the opinion, and if you care about justice you should, contact your state legislator and let them know. If enough voters complain then the laws can be rewritten to allow tainted trials to be overturned.