Texan Michael Morton spent 25 years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. Now, he’s been released on DNA evidence. He was originally convicted on circumstantial evidence with no physical evidence at all. He was convicted for the beating death of his wife that occurred in August 1986. Morton’s lawyers say the prosecutors knew he might be innocent and that they knowingly withheld evidence that would have prevented his conviction during the original trial.
Early in the morning of the slaying, Michael went to work at his job at the grocery store. After he left, an intruder invaded the couple’s home, killing Michael’s wife, Christine. The couple’s young son, who was three at the time, told police that the man he’d seen kill his mother was not his father. Prosecutors withheld this information, however, and painted Morton as a man who killed his wife in a fit of rage for refusing to have sex with him after his 32nd birthday party celebration. Other information, such as the fact that his wife’s credit cards had been used directly after her murder were also suppressed.
Certainly, one could argue that if Morton had his own credit cards, why would he have used his wife’s after her murder? This is the kind of information that could have acquitted him had it been introduced in court. Instead, evidence was suppressed and an innocent man spent 25 years in prison.
With the help of the Innocence Project, authorities re-examined the evidence in the case and found DNA evidence that clearly exonerated him and pointed to a convicted felon who had committed another murder in 1988, after Morton was already in jail.
His defense attorney, John Raley, told reporters that the state basically told Morton that if he had shown remorse for a crime he didn’t commit, he’d have been paroled already, which is ridiculous. Why should a man express remorse for a crime he didn’t commit? And why is asserting one’s innocence seen as a sign of guilt? The man was convicted on nothing more than speculation and shoddy detective work. The system convicted an innocent man, which in turn, allowed the real killer to remain free to kill again.
Rick Perry wasn’t governor or even in charge during this farce of a trial. However, it could still come back to bite him on the butt. Why? Because one of his appointees, Ray Bradley, may have suppressed evidence of Morton’s innocence which would have freed him. Perry appointed Bradley to the Texas Forensic Science Commission in 2009, but the state legislature defied the governor, refusing to confirm him after he stated that he believed Todd Cameron Willingham was a “guilty monster,” and criticized the commission that investigated his prosecution. Bradley wouldn’t release evidence of Morton’s innocence, and folks close to the case had to make a public information request with the state to even get a transcript of police interviews.
Once the courts give Morton a final exoneration, he will be eligible to receive $80,000 per year of compensation from the state: a total of about $2 million, for being wrongfully incarcerated.
Â©2011 Reno Berkeley for Gather News.