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Putting the Blame Where It Belongs – On Perry

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The San Antonio Express-News published a blistering editorial today about Rick Perry’s handling of the Forensic Science Commission and its investigation into the Cameron Todd Willingham case.

In the piece, titled “Perry’s Brazen Abuse of Power,” the paper’s editorial board writes:

“When the going was about to get tough for Gov. Rick Perry at the Texas Forensic Science Commission last fall, Perry sacked three commission members, including its chairman. The commission — created by the Legislature in 2005 to set standards for forensic analysis and investigate allegations of negligence or misconduct — was at long last about to consider the case of Todd Willingham….

Just as the commission was set to hear expert testimony about the Willingham case, Perry’s new appointee — Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley — abruptly canceled the hearing. The move benefited Perry politically by delaying an official examination that could prove to be detrimental to his re-election effort.”

It finishes with this flourish:

“Perry’s brazen manipulation of the commission represents an abuse of the gubernatorial power of appointment. Bradley’s political hatchet work on the governor’s behalf and lack of respect for open government render him unfit to serve as its chairman.”

This is the strongest, most devastating piece about the Willingham case and the Forensic Science Commission scandal that I’ve seen in the state’s daily newspapers recently.

If you haven’t been following the commission’s recent machinations—and how new chair John Bradley is creating a lot more bureaucracy that’s preempted continuation of the Willingham inquiry—read Rick Casey’s excellent columns in the Houston Chronicle last week (the first column is here, and the other is here.) Grits has, of course, also been all over this.

Bradley’s actions aren’t surprising. He told everyone exactly what he was planning, at a Senate committee hearing last fall. And, in fairness to Bradley, the man’s simply doing his appointed job.

There’s little doubt why the governor put Bradley in charge of the Forensic Science Commission—to gain control of the Willingham investigation. Even if he wasn’t told explicitly by the governor’s office to delay the inquiry, Bradley is a very smart man. He knows the governor’s in the middle of a tough election, and he knows the political reasons he’s in this job.

Bradley has been getting a lot more flak over Willingham lately than Perry. Amazingly, the governor sailed through two debates with his GOP primary opponents without confronting a single question about Willingham or the Forensic Science Commission.

The Express-News places the blame where it belongs—on the governor. He’s the one who, it appears, is meddling with a high-profile official investigation for political gain.

Bradley has certainly opened himself to criticism with his actions at the commission’s recent meeting. But if you don’t like what’s happening with the commission and the Willingham investigation, the man who should be held responsible is Rick Perry

Dave Mann has been with the Observer since 2003. Before that, he worked as a reporter in Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. He thinks border collies are the world’s greatest dogs, and believes in the nourishing powers of pickup basketball.