In 1987 Michael Morton was convicted of murder in the beating death of his wife and sentenced to life in prison. A court filing this week contends he is innocent and asks for an investigation into new evidence. Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley is opposed to the filing, however, not so much in what it’s asking for, but how it’s worded.
The motion, signed by Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck and Houston lawyer John Wesley Raley, doesn’t simply ask for a new investigation, it asks that a judge appoint a special prosecutor, stating “Mr. Bradley surely cannot be trusted to impartially investigate the case now.” This wording comes perhaps not from a place of retaliation, as Bradley alleges, but after the evidence showed Bradley’s office may have ignored evidence present at the time of trial that could have spoken to Morton’s innocence.
One piece of evidence that was crucial in Morton’s conviction was a blood stained bandana. However, recent DNA testing showed that the bandana did not have Morton’s DNA on it and instead had that of an “unnamed California felon.”
Also, the recently filed motion states that the previous District Attorney may have hid evidence from Morton’s lawyers during the trial. A police transcript shows that the Mortons’ young son witnessed the murder and claimed it was not his father who attacked and killed his mother. This transcript was never given to the defense
Although Bradley was not in office when Morton was convicted, the motion filed by the Innocence Project of New York states that his office, which was responsible for the original prosecution of the case, cannot be trusted to handle an investigation fairly. The motion also alleges that Bradley has shown “unprofessional animosity” towards Morton and his attorneys.
“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, taking offense to the wording of the motion. “If the investigation shows that he is in fact innocent, then that will be the result.”
It’s easy to see, however, how not everyone would trust this to be the case. Numerous cases of prosecutorial misconduct and wrongful convictions are intertwined, often showing that regardless of what the investigation shows, an innocent man can go to prison.
There’s a saying in jails and prisons, that everyone there is innocent. But it seems more and more likely that there are more innocent people behind bars than we may have ever imagined. There are cases of wrongful convictions. And they all started with an accusation and a charge.
If you’ve been charged with a criminal charge in Texas you didn’t commit, avoiding a conviction at all costs is the ultimate goal. It might not be a murder charge, but when you are looking at prison time and a permanent criminal record—it’s serious.