Texas Forensic Science Commission to reopen Willingham case

The Texas Forensic Science Commission is set to meet on April 23, 2010 in Irving, Texas to discuss the number of cases put on hold since Governor Perry’s decision late last year to replace four members on the nine member commission, including commission chairman Sam Bassett with Williamson County district attorney John Bradley.

One such case the commission is expected to discuss is that of Cameron Todd Willingham. In September of 2009, the Commission was set to hear from Baltimore fire expert Craig Baylor who was hired by the Commission in 2008 to address complaints made by the Innocence Project regarding the possible wrongful execution of Willingham based on faulty forensic science work in the 1992 trial which sentenced Willingham to death. Baylor’s report, filed and available to the public, found substantial evidence which suggested Willingham was not responsible for the arson that resulted in the deaths of his two young daughters. On the eve of Baylor’s testimony, Governor Perry replaced a number of members, essentially shutting down the commission; Baylor is yet to be called back to discuss his findings.

Although members of the commission like Jay Arthur Eisenberg, commission member since October 2006 and professor and chairman of the department of forensic and investigative genetics at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Forth Worth, are “pleased that we’re going to get back to the discussion” concern exists over Chairman Bradley’s order of operations. Bradley’s leadership control of the commission has resulted in a number of unnecessary delays along with the creation of separate sub-committees to handle individual work conducted by the commission, for example investigations and complaints-to decide which cases the commission will investigate. Already a number of legislatures have spoken out against Bradley’s decisions as chairman, including his presence on the investigative panel giving him “more control over the ultimate outcome”.
The Fort Worth Star Telegram covers the commission’s upcoming meeting in the following article available here.