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Prosecutorial Misconduct Spotlighted in Michael Morton Case as Texas High Court Releases Innocent Man

This morning, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued its opinion in the Michael Morton case, where the Innocence Project (among others) have been working hard to overturn Morton’s 1987 conviction (and life sentence) for murdering his wife.

Read the full text of the CCA’s opinion, hot off the presses, here.

For background on the travesty of justice involved in the conviction of Michael Morton, read our August 2011 post “Innocence Project Finds Another Innocent Man Convicted of Murder in Texas but Loses Fight to Boot Prosecutor for Bias.” where we have been monitoring the efforts to remove the Williamson County District Attorney from the case.

DNA Tests Prove Michael Morton Did Not Kill His Wife

In its opinion, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals finds as a fact that Morton is innocent, accepting the DNA testing into its deliberations which had shown that another individual, not Morton, committed the crime.  Morton’s conviction has been vacated.

What Did the Prosecutor Hide?

Investigations have been ongoing into the actions (or lack thereof) by the prosecutor in this case because there is reason to believe that evidence which would prove that Morton was innocent was withheld by the district attorney’s office of Williamson County.

The evidence withheld includes: (1) the eyewitness account of Morton’s young son, who said that the killer was not his father; (2) the victim’s Visa card found later at a store in San Antonio; (3) a cashed check, made out to the victim, with an apparent forged endorsement on the back where it was cashed almost two weeks after the homicide; and (4) the bandanna found at the crime scene with DNA evidence on it (which has been the basis of the vacated conviction).

What Happens to Michael Morton Now?  He’s Free and He’s Gonna Get Paid

Michael Morton has been walking free since October 3, 2011 (when an earlier hearing allowed his release pending today’s ruling) and now, under the laws of the State of Texas, he will be entitled to receive $80,000/year of wrongful imprisonment as well as $2,000,000 in an annuity that earns 5% interest.

And before anyone gets excited about that cash, think about it:  this man has served a huge part of his life behind bars, with most folk believing that he had killed his own wife.  Does anyone really think that this moola really fixes all that — that this man wouldn’t prefer to erase all this rather than have that cash now?  These payments don’t excuse or weaken the wrong of prosecutorial misconduct.

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