After spending 25 years in jail for a crime that he did not commit, Michael Morton was freed on Tuesday, October 4, after DNA evidence cleared him. Morton was wrongfully convicted for the murder of his wife, Christine Morton, back in 1986. DNA evidence is now pointing to a convicted felon as the killer.
Morton was released from prison with the help of Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley. Bradley spent years trying to block Morton’s lawyers from conducting DNA testing on key evidence in his case. The Innocence Project and Houston lawyer, John Raley, uncovered new key evidence that freed Morton.
Morton was exonerated based on newly discovered DNA evidence and evidence pointing to Morton’s innocence that the prosecution failed to turn over. DNA belonging to a convicted felon was found on a bandana also containing the victim’s blood that was found about 100 yards from the Morton home.
Former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson withheld critical evidence that could have prevented Morton from receiving a guilty verdict. Through a Public Records Request, the Innocence Project discovered multiple pieces of evidence that were not given to the defense, including: a transcript of a taped interview with the victim’s mother stating that her 3-year-old grandson told her he saw a man, who was not his father, beat the victim to death; a handwritten telephone message left for the Sheriff’s Office two days after the murder reporting the victim’s Visa card at a jewelry store and the name of a police officer who would be able to identify the woman trying to use the card; a report by a neighbor that she saw a male park a green van by the Morton’s home; and an internal message to the chief investigator to follow up on a report that a check made out to the victim was cashed with a forged signature nine days after the murder.
Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, said:
Mr. Morton was the victim of serious prosecutorial misconduct that caused him to lose 25 years of his life and completely ripped apart his family. Perhaps even more tragically, we now know that another murder might have been prevented if law enforcement had continued its investigation rather than building a false case against Mr. Morton.
Anderson declined to comment on the questions that have surfaced concerning his conduct on the Morton case. Anderson is currently a state judge, appointed to the bench in 2002 by Governor Rick Perry. He had been named “Prosecutor of the Year” in 1995.