Morton Seeks Accountability
'Revenge is a natural instinct, but it's not what I'm asking for here'
Looking down from the bench at Michael Morton, who was freed this year after spending nearly a quarter-century behind bars for a murder he did not commit, District Judge Sid Harle apologized for the system that failed Morton. Then Harle stepped down from the bench to stand face-to-face with Morton and hand him the signed order that would finally dismiss the murder indictment against him, certifying that he is an innocent and exonerated man. Morton took the paper and kissed it as the assembled crowd of onlookers stood and applauded. "This is a happy day, obviously, but let's not forget this was a horrible crime," Morton told the crowd. "My wife's brains were splattered all over the [bedroom] walls and ceiling," he continued. "A lot of people think I want a pound of flesh. Revenge is a natural instinct, but it's not what I'm asking for here – just accountability."
Morton and his team of lawyers – including Houston attorney John Raley, as well as Barry Scheck and Nina Morrison from the Innocence Project – allege that then-District Attorney Ken Anderson, now a Williamson County district judge, hid from Morton's defense exculpatory materials that would have demonstrated back in 1987 that Morton was not responsible for his wife's murder inside their Georgetown home. In a report filed with Harle, the team is asking the judge to rule there is probable cause to believe that Anderson acted in contempt of court by secreting the favorable evidence and to commence a court of inquiry to vet whether that crime took place. The evidence against Anderson – collected in depositions with the judge, former assistant prosecutor Mike Davis, and retired Williamson County sheriff's investigator Don Wood, as well as affidavits from other former employees of Anderson's D.A.'s Office, including now-sitting Judge Doug Arnold – "demonstrates that Judge Anderson, when he was D.A. violated the laws of Texas."
Whether Harle will agree and order the court of inquiry is still unclear; Harle said he would take the matter under advisement and would give Anderson a chance to respond to the substance of the Morton team's report. A ruling is expected early next year.
Meeting with reporters outside the courtroom, Anderson's attorney Eric Nichols, a former assistant attorney general, said his client is confident that he did nothing wrong in the Morton case and that he provided to Morton's trial attorneys all of the evidence he was required by law to release. The "disclosures [provided] to defense counsel met every burden in place at that time," he said.
Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office has agreed to try Mark Alan Norwood, the man now charged with the murder of Christine Morton, on the basis of DNA testing that Morton attorney Raley fought for years to access (over the objections of current Williamson County D.A. John Bradley). Norwood is expected to plead not guilty to the charge. No trial date has been se.
For a more complete report, see austinchronicle.com/newsdesk.