Book Review: Lone Star (In)Justice
Michael Morton's firsthand account of his unjust conviction and hard-won exoneration is both insightful and infuriating
Reviewed by Jesse Sublett, Fri., July 4, 2014
Getting Life: An Innocent Man's 25-Year Journey From Prison to Peaceby Michael Morton
Simon & Schuster, 304 pp., $25
Christine Morton was bludgeoned to death in her home in Williamson County on Aug. 13, 1986. Michael Morton, her husband, was away at work. To his surprise, Michael was charged with the crime, convicted, and sentenced to life. He served 25 years before he was cleared by DNA evidence, thanks to the Innocence Project.
Morton was railroaded by hard-nosed Williamson County D.A. Ken Anderson. The Mortons' 3-year-old son, Eric, who was home when Christine was killed, told investigators that he saw "a monster" hurt his mom.
Even for readers who may feel practically jaded about stories of injustice in Texas – even those who followed this case closely in the press – could do themselves a favor by picking Michael Morton's new memoir, Getting Life: An Innocent Man's 25-Year Journey From Prison to Peace. It is extremely well-written, insightful, infuriating, and, in places, quite funny. The "peace" part of the title is no exaggeration, either. For everything he's been through, Michael Morton seems to be a very well-adjusted person with a sense of Zenlike calm. He does write about having an experience with God midway through his prison term, but that's a relatively small part of his narrative.
He starts his story with the door to his cell clanging shut and maintains a similar clarity throughout. In 2006, as he contemplated what life on the outside might be like, he mused that he "had never used a cell phone or owned a CD, a DVD, or an SUV ...." Watching TV around Christmas, he realizes that the B-roll onscreen is showing the street address where his estranged son lives, and Morton describes feeling "like an astronaut," staring down at a strange planet.
In 2013, Anderson was found in contempt of court for wrongful conviction in the Morton case and sentenced to 10 days in jail, plus a $500 fine and 500 hours of community service. Before reading this book, I searched online for Anderson's mug shot. Easy to find, he looks as pudgy as a tick and guilty as hell. It's not exactly justice, but it's something.