The Agitator names Williamson County D.A. John Bradley 2011 ‘worst prosecutor’ (TX)

A recent Williamson County politics inspire grassroots activism column noted the nomination of District Attorney John Bradley for The Agitator’s 2011 Worst Prosecutor of the Year Award and a Meet Your Winner posting has now proclaimed Bradley the winner.

Per The Agitator:

Williamson County, Texas, District Attorney John Bradley is the winner of our 2011 Worst Prosecutor of the Year award. It was a tight four-way race for the first day. North Carolina DA Tracey Cline then broke open a small lead on day two, before Bradley closed on the final day of voting.

A few updates on Bradley: On January 4, UPI reported that the Texas State Bar cleared Bradley of any ethics violations for spending 20 years fighting the DNA test that kept Michael Morton in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. This isn’t terribly surprising. State bars are notoriously lax at disciplining misbehaving prosecutors.

In this November New York Times profile that I didn’t catch when researching Bradley to nominate him, Bradley actually shows some contrition, going so far as to say the DNA results in the Morton case—which, again, he fought like to prevent from ever happening—have changed him. I hope that’s the case, but I’m inclined to think that after the Morton case, after having once advised another prosecutor to seek plea agreements that allow evidence to be destroyed so it can’t be tested in the future on an innocence claim, and after doing all he could to bury any investigation into the Cameron Todd Willingham case, Bradley’s period of penance should probably last more than a few months.

The Agitator goes on to discuss how Bradley still appears to serve as an officer for the National District Attorneys Association while another “worst prosecutor” nominee, Anita Alvarez of Illinois, serves as a director-at-large.  Not surprisingly, D.A. associations appear adept at embracing the same “notoriously lax” standards as their state bar counterparts.

In fact, a Bradley quote included recently in a Released Past Statements Now Haunting John Bradley post from The Wilco Watchdog gives more insight as to the “professional” prospective that can emerge from district attorneys’ interaction with their peers.

In a 2004 Texas District and County Attorney’s Association blog posting, the embattled Bradley reportedly presented this troubling and known, but not-so-often voiced reality with regard to how elected officials use the media in advancing self-interested agendas which may be adverse to taxpayer interests.

Prosecutors should consider establishing their own agenda. We do not have to be reactive to events. We can decide what events are important and publicize them. Prosecutor can generate their own stories. We see all sorts of things that occur in a community that a reporter will never know about unless we tell them. If we carefully consider a story and provide good background, a reporter will often be grateful for the tip and include a prosecutor’s point of view.

This perspective reminds of why citizen journalism – journalism not so often fighting a financial bottom-line or other influences – has become powerful. Traditional media sources can become “grateful” or, in other words, co-opted by government officials as Bradley advocates. When a reporter operates under a “they wanted me to run this story” mode and knows that failure to do so may jeopardize receipt of future story opportunities, it impacts a reporter’s coverage as well as their credibility.  And this jeopardized credibility can diminish a theoretically helpful source of government transparency and accountability.

The upcoming primary will bring Williamson County voters an opportunity to show the importance they place on integrity and honesty, transparency and accountability.  We’ll see what means more – credibility or even fleeting popularity.  Ongoing developments and investigations in the Morton and related cases will also be influential.

In a race that’s anyone’s guess, time will tell.

Lou Ann Anderson is an advocate working to create awareness regarding the Texas probate system and its surrounding culture. She is the Online Producer at www.EstateofDenial.com, a Policy Advisor with Americans for Prosperity Foundation – Texas and a Director of Women on the Wall. Lou Ann may be contacted at info@EstateofDenial.com.

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