10.03.11

Michael Morton conviction overturned, to be freed immediately

Posted in Criminal Justice, District Attorney, Williamson County at 9:04 pm by wcnews

Here’s video from KXAN.

The most important thing is that Michael Morton is released from prison ASAP, and that the true murderer is put behind bars just as quickly. But once that is done those responsible for this travesty of justice lasting as long as it did must be held accountable. From the Texas Tribune, DA Agrees DNA Evidence Doesn’t Support Morton’s Guilt.

The Morton case could have serious ramifications for John Bradley, the former head of the Texas Forensic Science Commission who was critical of efforts to examine questions about the arson science used to convict Cameron Todd Willingham in the 1991 deaths of his three daughters. (Willingham was executed in 2004.)

For more than six years, Bradley resisted turning over the bandana and other evidence for new DNA testing until a Texas appellate court ordered him to do so last year.

On Monday, Bradley said he could not discuss the reasons he opposed DNA testing in the Morton case for more than six years. Doing so, he said, would jeopardize the ongoing investigation of the murders of Christine Morton and Debra Jan Baker.

“As a lawyer, I had what I believe are good-faith reasons for raising concerns about that,” he said.

Raley, Morton’s defense attorney, said the case proves that prosecutors should never fight against DNA testing. “It can only reveal the truth,” Raley said. “And those that oppose it are being inherently illogical.”

According to the Innocence Project, there have been 43 DNA exonerations in Texas, not including Morton’s case, which still must be reviewed and approved by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Morton’s attorneys also say Bradley sat on evidence that should have been turned over to the defense and that could have helped exonerate him. In addition to making claims of innocence on behalf of Morton in legal documents filed today, his lawyers also alleged that Williamson County prosecutors violated his due process rights in several ways.

“This story is by no means over,” said Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project.

Morton’s lawyers claimed that the Williamson County district attorney’s office withheld a transcript of a conversation between Rita Kirkpatrick, Christine Morton’s mother, and an investigator in which she told the officer that Morton’s 3-year-old son saw a “monster” who was not his father attack and kill his mother.

The defense attorneys also allege prosecutors withheld information about Christine Morton’s credit card being used in San Antonio two days after she was killed and about a check made out to her that was cashed with her forged signature nine days after her death.

“I want to know how a dead woman uses her credit card or cashes a check,” Scheck said. “And I want to know how, when your theory of defense is that somebody broke in and killed his wife and stole the purse, that information isn’t made known to the defense lawyers.”

Bradley’s office did not agree to those claims in the court documents filed today — only to the actual innocence claims regarding the DNA evidence.

Bradley emphasized a number of times today, in and out of the courtroom, that he was not the district attorney when Morton was investigated and prosecuted in 1986 and 1987. Ken Anderson, who is now a Williamson County district judge, was the original prosecutor. Bradley took over the case in recent years. Bradley said he would continue to have a role in the ongoing discussions of alleged violations by Williamson County prosecutors.

Bradley also said he was proud to join in the agreement to release Morton. “It is an amazing day,” he said.

This is just another black mark for the “guilty until proven innocent” kind of criminal justice that Williamson County has become infamous for. It’s time for all those involved in keeping this man behind bars for 24 plus years to move on.

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