Category: junk science

Rick Perry’s Atheist Pope

Eighteen months ago, Texas Governor Rick Perry appointed Williamson County DA John Bradley to head up the Texas Forensic Science Commission.  It was like turning over the Vatican to Richard Dawkins.  Bradley, like most Texas prosecutors, thinks forensic scientists have one role: helping the state convict bad guys; Perry’s atheist pope likes forensic testimony crafted to the needs of the prosecution.

Governor Perry put Bradley in charge of the TFSC to keep the Cameron Todd Willingham debacle out of the headlines during his primary fight with Kay Bailey Hutchinson.  Perry also tried to stack the commission with people who share Bradley’s worldview, but things haven’t worked out to the governor’s liking.  As Rick Casey demonstrates in this informative column in the Houston Chronicle, Bradley is unlikely to receive Senate confirmation. (more…)

“The Confessions”: Frontline highlights the case of the Norfolk Four

I was out-of-town on a speaking engagement when “The Confessions” originally aired on Frontline.  I strongly urge you to watch the entire program online.  It won’t be a pleasant experience.  Listening to this twisted saga kept taking me back to the recent trial of Curtis Flowers–the stories are very different in some respects, but wrongful convictions follow a familiar pattern.

Two of the attorneys representing the defendents in this case, by the way, are Des Hogan and George Kendall, key members of the legal “Dream Team”  involved in the fight for justice in Tulia, Texas.

The story of the Norfolk Four revolves around aggressive interrogation, false confession, and prosecutorial tunnel vision.  Once the detectives responsible for the investigation latched onto a theory of the crime, they clung to it tenaciously–facts be damned. (more…)

Texas Court Halts Controversial Hearing

Judge Kevin Fine

To the surprise of no one, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has halted a controversial hearing in Houston designed to consider the constitutionality of the Texas death penalty.  Prosecution and defense counsel have fifteen days to present arguments.  

District Judge Kevin Fine is aware that the US Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the Texas death penalty, but needs to be convinced that the statute can be fair in the case of John Edward Green Jr.

Bob Loper, one of the attorneys representing John Edward Green Jr, believes the hearing (originally scheduled to last two weeks) will continue.  “We’re confident we’ll get a ruling in our favor,” Loper told the Associated Press. “We think our cause is just.”

This quote reminds me of the “expert” who told NPR recently that the TCCA would likely turn a deaf ear to Tom Delay’s appeal because “the court has a conservative reputation.”  (Delay was recently convicted of conspiracy and money-laundering by an Austin, Texas jury.)  The ulta-conservative tilt of the state’s highest court is precisely why Tom Delay has a good chance of getting a reversal and why and the hearing in Judge Fine’s court is unlikely to resume. (more…)

Death penalty on trial in Harris County

Harris County Judge Kevin Fine

Harris County Judge Kevin Fine is presiding over a dramatic hearing that, in essence, has placed the Texas death penalty on trial.  (As the picture to the left suggests, Judge Fine is not your average jurist.  Do the tats suggest an affinity with the accused?)  

According to the Houston Chronicle, “Defense lawyers for John Edward Green are arguing that Texas has executed two innocent defendants, and the procedures surrounding the death penalty in Texas are unconstitutional because there are not enough safeguards.” (more…)

The Claude Jones saga: Did Texas execute an(other) innocent man?

Claude Jones

By Alan Bean

Note: Dave Mann has written a well-researched feature story on this case for the Texas Observer.

Not that most Americans would care, but it appears that Texas executed another innocent man in 2000.  This story from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram relates the sad fate of Claude Jones, a St. Jacinto man convicted of killing a liquor store clerk in the course of an armed robbery in 1989. 

Prosecutors showed the jury a single hair that they claimed belonged to Jones.  They couldn’t be sure, mind you, and no DNA test was conducted, but they were pretty sure. 

But that wasn’t enough for a conviction, corroborating testimony was required.  Enter Timothy Jordan.  In exchange for a lenient sentence, he testified that he had served as an accomplice and that Jones was the trigger man.

Three years after Jones was executed, Jordan recanted his testimony. Need you ask why?  He was threatened with dire consequences if he refused to cooperate with prosecutors.  We’ve seen this movie before, haven’t we?

George W. Bush was fixin’ to leave the governor’s mansion for bigger and better things when he gave Jones’ execution the thumbs up.  No one on his staff mentioned that the hair that so impressed jurors had not been tested.

Now it has and we know for a fact that the hair did not belong to Jones. (more…)

Anthony Graves freed after eighteen years in prison

Anthony Graves

By Alan Bean

Anthony Graves is back in the free world after eighteen years of hell. 

Charles Sebesta, the prosecutor who sent Graves to death row, still thinks he nailed the right man.  If you asked the Texas Rangers who conducted the “investigation” they would probably agree with Sebesta.
According to the state’s theory of the crime, Graves teamed up with Robert Earl Carter to brutally murder Bobbie Davis, 45; her 16-year-old daughter, Nicole; and four of Davis’ grandchildren in August of 1992.  The victims died from hammer blows, repeated stabbings, and bullet wounds.   Their house was then torched in a clumsy attempt to conceal evidence.  It was the most brutal crime in the history of Burleson County. (more…)