Book Review: Lone Star (In)Justice

Michael Morton's firsthand account of his unjust conviction and hard-won exoneration is both insightful and infuriating

Lone Star (In)Justice

Getting Life: An Innocent Man's 25-Year Journey From Prison to Peace

by 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.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More July Is Crime Month
Austin Author Chandler Baker Talks About Creating a Novel for the #MeToo Movement
Austin Author Chandler Baker Talks About Creating a Novel for the #MeToo Movement
Writer of Whisper Network offers a healthy dose of righteous indignation

M. Brianna Stallings, July 26, 2019

Road Tripping With a Serial Killer in <i>Paper Ghosts</i>
Road Tripping With a Serial Killer in Paper Ghosts
As well as being a riveting psychological thriller, this tale of a road trip across Texas with a serial killer shows the state in an intimate light

Elizabeth Cobbe, July 19, 2019

More Arts Reviews
<i>Young Claus</i>
Young Claus
Charming tale of Santa before he was so jolly and round

Katherine McNevins, Dec. 22, 2023

<i>Unheard Witness</i>
Unheard Witness
The untold story of Charles Whitman’s wife is one of domestic violence red flags

Katherine McNevins, Nov. 17, 2023

More by Jesse Sublett
This Job Will Change Your Life
This Job Will Change Your Life
Former staff reflect on the zigs and zags of life post-Chronicle

Sept. 3, 2021

Jan Reid: A Remembrance
Jan Reid: A Remembrance
Jesse Sublett pays tribute to his late friend as a true writer

Sept. 22, 2020


July Is Crime Month, 'Getting Life: An Innocent Man's 25-Year Journey From Prison to Peace', Michael Morton

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle