John Bradley's "Bandana Bandit" Strikes
A very loud message is being sent to District Attorney John Bradley without a word being spoken.
Of all the pieces of evidence that led to the exoneration of Michael Morton, the bloody bandana found in the construction area behind the house where the murder was committed stands as the most dramatic and illustrative symbol of the case. When the bandana was finally tested, DNA was found belonging to the victim, Christine Morton, and Mark Allen Norwood, who is now the chief suspect in the case and is awaiting trial. (Norwood's DNA also was found on a hair at the murder scene of Debra Baker, who was killed two years after the Morton murder was committed.)
Not only was the bandana withheld from the jury and Morton's defense team in the 1987 trial in which Morton was wrongfully convicted, it was continually suppressed by the current district attorney, John Bradley, who joined the Williamson County DA's office in 1989 and was appointed DA in 2001. But even after he was appointed as DA and then subsequently elected and re-elected, Bradley continued to fight hard against Morton's efforts to have the bandana tested for DNA.
A recent story was published in the Houston Chronicle about John Raley, Morton’s attorney. One line from the story states, “Nina Morrison now laughs when she recalls the naiveté that Raley, a civil litigator with expertise in medical malpractice, brought to the criminal court arena: He said, 'Of course the prosecutors will want to do DNA testing. Who wouldn't want to do DNA testing?'" But as we all know, Raley picked up plenty of criminal law experience in his six year battle with Bradley to get testing done - and he was ultimately victorious. Matter of fact, he picked up enough to dismantle Bradley in the process. The "Battle of the Johns" now stands at Raley 23 - Bradley 1
Not only did Bradley work incredibly hard to keep the bandana out of play, he repeatedly mocked Morton's efforts to have it tested. Here are a few quotes made by Bradley during the fight to have the bandana tested.
The bloody bandana was “irrelevant”.
“One has to wonder whether petitioner would file another motion at some future date seeking additional testing of even more items.”
Bradley repeatedly 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".
"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 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.
Bradley also stated in 2008: "The public might want to remain skeptical of a defendant who to this day doesn't accept responsibility." Bradley made the statement as Morton continued his fight to gain access to exculpatory evidence, especially the bandana.
Bradley argued that the bandana with the case-solving DNA was irrelevant because it was found “a football field’s length” away from the murder scene.
“It should not incorporate the possibility of a match of any DNA profile recovered from the bandana to a known offender.”
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."
The mocking didn’t stop with Bradley. One of Bradley's assistant DAs, Tommy Coleman, was heard mocking the evidence at one of the hearings in 2011 leading to Morton's exoneration. As he sat in the hallway outside the courtroom, Coleman sarcastically said, “Bloody bandana, bloody bandana, eewwwww!”
In the end, Bradley lost the fight when the Texas Third Court of Appeals ruled that Bradley had to turn over the bandana, which resulted in the testing, and that resulted in Morton's exoneration and Norwood's arrest in 2011. Because of Bradley's efforts in suppressing the bandana and keeping it from being tested, Morton spent several years in prison unnecessarily. In other words, if Bradley had not resisted, Morton would have been exonerated many years sooner. Judge Doug Arnold stated it was in fact Bradley who ordered the mighty fight waged against testing the bandana and stated that in a sworn statement: “I thought that our positions were, at the time, legally justifiable. I don't think that any longer.” (click here to read The Judge Doug Arnold Sworn Statement: The Truth About John Bradley story)
Oddly enough, even after the bandana showed DNA from Norwood, Bradley continued fighting until he could fight no more. Then, in an attempt to save face, he jumped ship and publicized he was “joining the efforts” of Morton’s attorneys to get Morton released from prison.
Bradley made a statement the day Morton was officially exonerated on December 19, 2011 that was so bizarre; those close to Bradley even stated that it shows just how desperate he is with his attempts to spin his way out of the hole he has dug for himself.
“There’s no question if we have had DNA testing and we had known what we know today 25 years ago, everyone would have tested the bandana and discovered what value it had as evidence.” – John Bradley
And now, as Bradley faces a major challenge in his effort to be re-elected, that now-famous symbol of the Morton case has begun to turn up next to Bradley's re-election signs. A person or persons dubbed as the “Bandana Bandit” is sticking bandanas next to Bradley's campaign signs in a symbolic display. The bold and unmistakable statement of these bandanas regarding Bradley's role in keeping Michael Morton locked up in prison much longer than necessary speaks louder than words.
One question remains to be seen. Will John Bradley order the bandanas tested for DNA to discover the identity of the “Bandana Bandit”?
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