Saturday, February 16, 2013

Texas prosecutor in denial

A Texas newspaper reports:
You may remember the case of Michael Morton. He is the Georgetown man who spent 25 years in prison for killing his wife before DNA on a bandana found behind his house showed his wife's blood and skin cells from a man who was not Morton.

A search of a nationwide criminal database found a match for that DNA. Mark Norwood, a dishwasher from Bastrop, has been indicted not only for Christine Morton's brutal murder, but also for the murder of an Austin woman a year and a half later.

Last week something unprecedented happened in the case. The district attorney who persuaded a jury of Morton's guilt suffered through five grueling days in a Georgetown courtroom as a judge heard evidence and argument that he had illegally covered up evidence of Morton's innocence. ...

But as far as Anderson was concerned, he made no mistakes. When his attorney asked him to tell Morton how he felt, he turned to Morton and said: “I apologize that the system screwed up. It obviously screwed up. And I beat myself up on what could have been done differently, and I frankly don't know.”

Here are some things that could have been done differently.

He could have told the sheriff's office to pursue the neighbors' accounts of a suspicious man nosing about early in the morning.

He could have taken the 3-year-old boy seriously and laughed at the lead investigator's preposterous theory. Instead, Anderson joined the investigator in believing that Morton had flown into a murderous rage when his wife fell asleep while he sought to have sex. But before killing her, he put on his scuba diving wet suit to disguise himself from his son.

And Anderson could have chosen not to take the extraordinary step of keeping his lead investigator from testifying at trial. Under the rules he would have had to turn over to the defense the report of the stranger and the transcript of the grandmother's account of what the boy saw.

It wasn't that “the system screwed up.” Anderson did. He may or may not be found to have committed a crime, but he clearly did not commit justice.

Michael Morton summed it up best: “I think we saw someone who is still struggling with denial and anger, a man who has spent at least three decades in power who for the first time is having to answer for his actions.”
The system did screw up. A man's trial for murder should not depend on the honesty of one unaccountable prosecutor. Texas could have required him to list all his evidence under oath, and prosecute him if he lies. As it is, prosecutors and judges are almost never held accountable for illegal behavior.

1 comment:

lisa said...

Its group think too. and its about how seldom it is a stranger and the fear of a guy going free who is guilty.

Its sad though. Our system is designed thoughtfully to let the guilty go unpunished so that only the truly guilty are punished. However, it only takes small men like this prosecutor to derail the system. So very sad.