John Bradley: "Grasping At Straws"
District Attorney John Bradley
On the heels of the announcement that 12 serious grievances have been filed against Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley with the State Bar of Texas, Bradley's response was a clumsy attempt to portray himself as the poster child that corrected the injustice of Michael Morton's unjustified incarceration for 24 years. Bradley wasn't the prosecutor in that case, but he played a key role in the suppression of crucial evidence by claiming that it wouldn't have a bearing on the case.
Beginning some six years ago, when serious efforts were made by Michael Morton’s attorney, John Raley, to get access to exculpatory evidence that would exonerate Morton, Bradley vigorously fought release of that evidence. But John Raley and the Innocence Project eventually prevailed, and Morton was released from a Texas prison on October 4, 2011.
The point at which Bradley realized that his effort to obscure the mismanagement of the critical exculpatory evidence was doomed to failure, he did an about-face and cooperated in Morton's release. And then, immediately after the 12 grievances were filed against him for his role in helping to suppress the evidence, he released this statement:
"I just happen to be the DA responsible for cooperating in the release of Morton."
Let's take a look at the historical record and examine Bradley's actual words and actions while he just happened to be the guy with all of the key evidence buried in his files.
In October of 2005, when John Raley was intensifying the effort to gain access to the evidence in Bradley's files, Bradley wrote: “One has to wonder whether petitioner would file another motion at some future date seeking additional testing of even more items.”
In a 2009 filing, Bradley argued that the bandana with the case-solving DNA was irrelevant because it was found “a football field’s length” from the Morton’s house, and that if any DNA testing did take place, “it should not incorporate the possibility of a match of any DNA profile recovered from the bandana to a known offender.”
Bradley mocked Mr. Morton's claim that DNA testing on the bandana and other items could possibly be linked, in Mr. Bradley's words, to "a mystery killer" For example, in the first brief filed after the Raley filed the Chapter 64 motion in 2005 to test the bandana for DNA, the District Attorney's Office made the remarkable assertion that even if Christine Morton's own blood turned up on a bandana found a full 100 yards from her home at an abandoned construction site, it was "no more unlikely" that "prior to her death, Christine sustained a minor injury while in the area behind her property and used the previously-discarded bandana to wipe away her blood".
Bradley said that a good step “might be to get a written agreement that all the evidence can be destroyed after the conviction and sentence. Then, there is nothing to test or retest."
Part of the evidence in the case was a transcript of a telephone conversation describing the eyewitness account of the murder provided by the Mortons' three-year-old son, Eric. Morton’s attorneys found a summary of the telephone transcript in a district attorney case file marked "trial documents”, leading many to believe that Bradley was fully aware the evidence existed.
In an interview on WXAN-TV, Bradley derided Michael Morton’s request to test the evidence in light of the unsolved case as “silly,” and he told Rick Casey of the Houston Chronicle that Morton was “grasping at straws” by refusing to give up his quest for DNA testing.
Silly, indeed, in light of the fact that Bradley cooperated in Morton's release after the DNA on the bandanna exonerated Morton and left Bradley with no cards left to play. But then again, once Travis County blew the lid off the case, he had no choice.
There were two meetings convened by Bradley in October of 2011, during the time when Morton was being released from prison, apparently for the purpose of coordinating information regarding the evidence, in preparation for deposition and investigation. Don Wood, the lead investigator of the case from the Williamson County Sheriff's Department, attended both meetings, and Bradley, Ken Anderson, and Mike Davis' attorney were present at the second meeting.
At the same time that Bradley was meeting with those originally responsible for the chain of evidence, he also was pledging his cooperation with the investigation into possible misconduct as part of the agreement to release Mr. Morton from prison.
Morton's attorneys filed a Motion stating Bradley had not provided them with all the documents they had requested, specifically prosecutors’ personal notes on the case, despite the promise by Bradley's office that all of the documents would be released. The district attorney informed them that his office reviewed those documents and found nothing relevant to the allegations against Mr. Anderson and Mr. Davis regarding the suppression of exculpatory evidence. He then refused to hand over the files so Morton’s attorneys could personally review them. These critical documents in the State's investigative file were finally obtained through a public records act request to the Williamson County Sheriff's Office ("WCSO"), a request that Mr. Bradley opposed and again lost when the Attorney General ordered the release.
Mr. Bradley and his representatives opposed each and every request for DNA testing made by Mr. Morton and his counsel, in both state and federal court and at the appellate level. He opposed DNA testing not only on the bloody bandana itself but also on other items of evidence that the state had collected at the scene, such as the victim's vaginal swabs and fingernail clippings. One of his own prosecutors mocked the bloody bandana in an attempt to discredit the evidence. That bandana ultimately led to Morton’s release.
The bottom line is that Bradley fought hard for years trying to keep the evidence from surfacing, and to keep critical physical evidence from being subjected to DNA testing. He also wrote letters to the parole board to keep Morton in prison.
He only changed his tune when Travis County DA’s office forced his hand. The investigation conducted by the Travis County DA’s office exposed the information that ultimately exonerated Morton. At that point it was evident that an innocent man had been in prison for 24 years, including the six or so years that Bradley fought so strenuously to keep the evidence out of play, including fighting all the way to the appellate court, where he finally was overruled.
If Bradley had prevailed in his zeal to keep the evidence under wraps and not subject it to testing, Michael Morton would still be in prison, and Mark Alan Norwood would not be in the Williamson County jail awaiting trial for Christine Morton's murder.
"When this case was decided, the ink was barely dry on my license," Bradley said to media, trying to deflect attention from his role in trying to suppress the evidence for the past six years.
The alleged transformation to a kinder, gentler and now-repentant John Bradley isn’t fooling many people. It’s re-election time and everyone sees the “transformation“ for what it truly is, self preservation. The 12 very serious grievances filed against Bradley that could lead to him possibly being disbarred, one challenger who has announced and rumors of another running for DA has placed Bradley in spin mode.
After years and years stating that Michael Morton was “grasping at straws”, it now appears by the following statement, it is in fact John Bradley who is now “grasping at straws”.
"I just happen to be the DA responsible for cooperating in the release of Morton. I am confident the public will see I behaved ethically and professionally under difficult circumstances."
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