Monday, March 26, 2012

Evidence of Innocence

CBS TV 60 Minutes showed this last night:
"I did not do this," Michael Morton said as he was led away in handcuffs, convicted of murdering his wife in 1987. Hardly anyone believed him. Now, after twenty five years in prison, Morton has been proven right and freed based on DNA tests. Morton and his lawyers say they recently discovered something astonishing: sitting in his prosecutor's file all those years was evidence that could have established Morton's innocence during his trial. Lara Logan reports.

It's not every day that a convicted murderer clears his name and then returns to court to argue that his prosecutor should be prosecuted. But that's what happened recently in a high-profile case in Texas that raises broader questions about the power prosecutors have and what happens when they're accused of misusing it. At the center of this story is a man named Michael Morton. He was once an ordinary citizen with a wife, a child, a job, and no criminal record whatsoever. But then he was sent to prison for life.

In 1987 in a very public trial, Michael Morton was convicted of brutally murdering his wife. As he was led away to prison, he insisted he was innocent.
In order to get out of the Texas prison, he needed to prove the prosecutor withheld an eyewitness account that someone else committed the crime, get a DNA test on some bloody evidence, show that his DNA did not match, find someone else who matched the DNA, and prove that the other guy had committed a similar crime. Why all that? Because the judicial system never admits to a mistake, if possible.
Barry Scheck: Sitting in the prosecutor's file and sitting in the sheriff's file there was a set of documents which, if they had been revealed, and the defense had seen them, Michael Morton would have been acquitted.

Ken Anderson went on to be named prosecutor of the year in Texas and since 2002 he's been a district judge in the same court where Michael Morton was convicted. All those years, Morton languished in prison.
Anderson is now a judge.
The one thing he told us that sustained him was the thought of his son. He was allowed to see Eric for two hours, once every six months.

Lara Logan: When he was about 12 or 13 years old, he wrote to you and said he didn't wanna come and see you anymore. Was your heart broken?

Michael Morton: Can't really limit to your heart.

Lara Logan: Everything?

Michael Morton: It's just-- when your child says they no longer want to come see you.

Lara Logan: And then when he turned 18, what did he do?

Michael Morton: I got notice in the mail that he was going to be adopted by my sister-in-law and her husband, both good folks. And he was gonna change his name.

Lara Logan: And what did that do to you?

Michael Morton: That was when I hit rock bottom. That was the end of it. That's when I had nothing left.
He would still be in prison, but for some DNA evidence that caught the real murderer.

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