In 1987, in Central Texas, Christine Morton was bludgeoned to death in her bed. Prosecutors in Williamson County built a case against Christine’s husband, Michael, then 32 years-old, based largely upon circumstantial evidence. Prosecutors stated Morton had “inappropriate reactions” to the news of his wife’s murder and claim Morton was so overwrought that his wife did not have sexual relations with him on his birthday, the day before her death, that he bludgeoned her to death in her bed. After killing his wife, the prosecution claimed Morton went to work as usual.
Morton, who sobbed at his sentencing saying, “I didn’t do this,” was sentenced to life in prison.
After spending twenty-five years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Michael Morton was exonerated in 2011 by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals due to the efforts of Barry Scheck’s New York-based Innocence Project. Scheck’s lawyers attempted to obtain a court order for new DNA testing of crime-scene evidence in the Morton murder, but were turned down for six years. When the testing was finally allowed and conducted, the results indicated that an intruder, Mark Alan Norwood, now 57, a man with a long criminal history, had killed Christine Morton.
The wrongful conviction of Morton has now brought up the issue of whether or not the prosecution engaged in prosecutorial misconduct. According to Morton’s lawyers, the lead prosecutor in the case, Ken Anderson, former district attorney of Williamson County, and his former assistant Mike Davis withheld evidence which included the following:
- A transcript from Christine Morton’s mother stating the couple’s three-year-old son told her a “monster” – not his father – had beaten his mother to death.
- Two weeks after Christine’s death, her credit card was used in San Antonio.
- A check made out to her after her death was cashed with a signature deemed a forgery.
The State Bar of Texas, which is in charge of lawyer discipline, and the Texas Attorney General, are both reinvestigating the Morton murder case to discover if the prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense lawyers as well as the jury.
The former district attorney in the Morton trial, who is now a district judge, publicly apologized to Morton and others adversely affected by the wrongful conviction by saying the legal system had suffered a “system’s failure.” He did, however, deny charges that prosecutors, which included himself, hid evidence that would have prevented Morton’s conviction.
Morton, who now lives with his parents, is eligible to receive $2 million from the State of Texas for his wrongful conviction, which averages out to $80,000 for each year he spent in prison.
Original article can be read here.