A tragic story

Posted in Criminal Justice, District Attorney, Uncategorized, Williamson County at 2:36 pm by wcnews

Via the AAS, DNA test shows innocent man jailed in 1986 murder, court filing says. (It should be noted that John Bradley was not the DA in Williamson County when Michael Morton was convicted.)

New DNA results, combined with evidence that was improperly withheld by Williamson County prosecutors for more than two decades, indicates that an Austin-area man has spent 24 years in jail for a murder he did not commit, a court filing alleged Wednesday.

Michael Morton, now 57, was convicted in the brutal beating death of his wife, Christine Morton, and sentenced to life in prison in 1987.

But a recent court-ordered DNA test, conducted on a blood-stained bandanna over the objections of Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, points instead to an unnamed California felon as the killer, according to court briefs filed by the Innocence Project of New York.

The court filing urged a Williamson County district judge to remove Bradley from the case, saying he cannot be trusted to oversee a reinvestigation of the killing because he has shown “unprofessional” animosity toward Michael Morton and his lawyers.

What’s more, the motion alleges, Bradley worked to keep a key piece of evidence hidden from Morton’s lawyers — a transcript of a police interview that shows the Mortons’ 3-year-old son witnessed his mother’s murder and said the attacker was not his father.

The transcript should have been provided to Morton’s defense lawyers before the trial but was not, according to the Innocence Project motion. Bradley, who was not district attorney during the trial, recently opposed releasing the transcript to the Innocence Project under the state’s open records laws, the motion said.

“Justice demands a rigorous and unbiased investigation into the true circumstances of Christine Morton’s death, and an explanation as to how her grieving husband was wrongfully charged and convicted of the crime,” the motion said. [Emphasis added]

Here’s what was withheld, via the court briefs.

First, for Mr. Bradley to admit the obvious - that the new DNA evidence is powerful proof of Michael Morton’s innocence - he will have to acknowledge more than just an embarrassing misjudgment that cost Michael Morton more than five years behind bars, more than just the use of inappropriately bitter rhetoric, and more than just a substantial expenditure of taxpayer dollars to block the testing. He will also have to acknowledge that he knowingly suppressed other evidence of Mr. Morton’s innocence that had been in the State’s files for over twenty years. These critical documents in the State’s investigative file were finally obtained through a public records act request to the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office (“WCSO”) that Mr. Bradley personally opposed. They immeasurably strengthen the claim that Mr. Morton first presented to this Court in 2005 - that Christine was killed by a third-party intruder, and that he should be given an opportunity to prove it through DNA testing - a theory that Mr. Bradley derided as unworthy of serious consideration during the entirety of the Chapter 64 proceedings.

The materials that Mr. Bradley failed to bring to this Court’s attention include, among other leads, a chilling taped police interview by the WCSO’s chief investigator of the victim’s own mother, just one week after Christine’s funeral. The transcript of the interview reveals that (1) the victim’s mother reported that her grandson, Eric, had personally witnessed the murder, (2) Eric not only gave a detailed (and factually corroborated) account of the crime, but was certain that a man who was not “Daddy” actually murdered Christine, and (3) the victim’s mother urged the WCSO’s investigator to abandon the theory that the crime was “domestic” in nature and to instead - in her words - go out and “look for the monster” who committed the crime; and (4) the investigator resisted, suggesting instead (and without any supporting evidence) that Michael might have committed the murder while wearing a scuba diving suit that made him unrecognizable to his only son. Having failed to disclose this extraordinary document (as well as, it appears, others with leads to the real killer that were not pursued by the State and/or disclosed to trial counsel) during the entirety of this Court’s Chapter 64 proceedings, and having unsuccessfully tried to block Defendant from obtaining them through the Public Information Act while the claims were on appeal, Mr. Bradley surely cannot be trusted to impartially investigate the case now. Nor would any investigation headed by his office have the appearance of fairness that the law requires.

Bradley is unrepentant.

The motion, signed by Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck and Houston lawyer John Wesley Raley, asks the court to appoint a special prosecutor to reinvestigate the case in light of the new evidence.

“Mr. Bradley surely cannot be trusted to impartially investigate the case now. Nor would any investigation headed by his office have the appearance of fairness that the law requires,” the motion said.

Bradley said he could not comment on the specifics of the Morton case because it is the subject of a pending litigation.
But Bradley took strong exception to the Innocence Project’s contention that he could not properly investigate the new evidence and criticized what he called personal attacks disguised as court documents.

“It seems to me that there’s a pretty big attempt here to retaliate or make personal attacks rather than litigate in the courtroom,” Bradley said. “If the investigation shows that he is in fact innocent, then that will be the result.”

Bradley said the new information will be followed up and investigated.

“I don’t think, on its face, that a DNA result that shows that a piece of evidence away from crime scene immediately proves innocence. It does raise some good issues that are worthy of investigation, and we will do that,” he said.

Bradley is taking this personal, but this isn’t about him. It’s about a man, and his family, who has been in prison for 24 years for a crime he didn’t commit. It’s a tragic story and should be rectified ASAP!

More from The StandDown Texas Project, DNA Points to Williamson County Wrongful Conviction.


  1. Eye on Williamson » round up said,

    August 22, 2011 at 3:21 am

    […] ikoniWCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on the horror that often times occurs in the Williamson County justice system, John Bradley is at it again. A man has spent 24 years in jail for a crime he did not commit, it truly is A tragic story. […]

  2. Eye on Williamson » Texas Blog Round Up (August 22, 2011) said,

    August 22, 2011 at 8:58 am

    […] WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on the horror that often times is the Williamson County justice and DA John Bradley. A man has spent 24 years in jail for a crime he did not commit, it truly is A tragic story. […]

  3. Eye on Williamson » Bradley will stay on a prosecutor in Morton case said,

    August 24, 2011 at 9:29 am

    […] Further Reading: A tragic story. […]

  4. Eye on Williamson » Surreal said,

    September 8, 2011 at 10:18 am

    […] Recent developments surrounding the Williamson County justice system, and an appellate decision, should bring a heightened sense of awareness to all when Texas politicians talk about the criminal justice system. That’s the reason to highlight this part of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s response to a question about the death penalty during the GOP Presidential debate last night. This is what he said about anyone who get’s convicted of a crime in Texas. They get a fair hearing. They go through an appellate process. They go up to the Supreme Court of the United States if that’s required. […]

  5. Eye on Williamson » Duty will challenge Bradley in GOP Primary said,

    December 14, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    […] system in Williamson County. More then just the wrongful conviction and unreasonably long time, (because of Bradley), Michael Morton spent behind bars for a crime he did not commit. It’s is definitely time […]

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