Lisa Falkenberg brings a fascinating and unexpected update to the story of John Bradley, the former Williamson County DA and Texas Forensic Science Commissioner who served as one of the main villains in the Michael Morton case.
Since losing elected office, Bradley has tried to find work. In 2012, I wrote about him applying to lead the state’s Special Prosecution Unit.
No one would take him. Until now. It seems Bradley has landed another prosecutor’s post. Not in Texas. Not in the United States. In the tiny Republic of Palau, where, according to several sources, Bradley has accepted a position in the attorney general’s office.
The former U.S. territory of about 20,000 people in Micronesia was granted independence in 1994, and now operates in “free association” with the United States.
Barry Scheck, co-founder and co-director of the New York-based Innocence Project, said he learned about Bradley’s new job in a mass email from Bradley’s wife.
Rob Kepple, executive director of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association and a former colleague of Bradley’s at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, said he hoped the island nation would provide a fresh start for his friend.
“It’s been awhile,” Kepple said, referring to the Morton revelations. “You know, maybe he gets another chance. Maybe he’s got to go all the way to Palau to get it. But I wish him well.”
Scheck, at the Innocence Project, echoed that sentiment.
“He’s certainly going quite a few thousand miles away in order to reinvent himself and we’re all in favor of second acts in American lives,” Scheck told me Tuesday.
Even Michael Morton maintained his graciousness when I asked what he thought about the prosecutor who wronged him returning to prosecuting.
“I don’t wake up every morning gnashing my teeth and shaking my fist at, you know, ‘where’s John Bradley?’ I’ve literally and figuratively moved on,” he said.
“At this stage of the game, I wish him well,” Morton said. “And, you know, adios.”
Morton’s Houston-based attorney John Raley, who worked the case for free, and fought Bradley at every turn as he tried to stymie Morton’s appeals, was a tad less gracious.
“I’m not aware of any evidence that he has learned the lessons of the Morton case,” Raley said of Bradley. “His actions in the future will answer that question.”
Part of me thinks everybody, even John Bradley, has the right to make a living, to learn from mistakes and to get on with life after grievous errors.
The other part thinks Bradley is still a danger to justice everywhere, even 8,000 miles away.
I’ve said repeatedly on this blog that I’m a believer in redemption. It’s the Catholic in me – I may not be a churchgoer any more, but what I learned while I was stays with me and still shapes how I think. The thing is, as we Catholics also know, you can’t be absolved of a sin until you stop committing it. Other than one brief feint in the direction of acknowledging his responsibility in the Morton saga, John Bradley has never shown any indication that he thinks he did anything wrong. If it were up to him, Michael Morton would still be in jail, Ken Anderson would still be on the bench, and the evidence that exonerated Morton and ousted Bradley and Anderson would be in a box somewhere, if it hadn’t been destroyed. So count me in the tad-less-gracious group here. It’s fine by me if John Bradley wants to put his life back together, but he can do that outside the practice of law. Flip burgers, sell cars, groom dogs, dig ditches, paint houses – there’s tons of honest, dignified jobs John Bradley can hold that won’t put him in a position of power over someone’s freedom. If he truly wants redemption, he knows what he has to do to earn it. Grits, who is more gracious than I, has more.