The Austin Chronicle

Bill of the Week

By Richard Whittaker, February 20, 2015, News

Filed: Feb. 6, 2015

Author: Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston

The paperwork may say "an act relating to postconviction forensic DNA analysis," but if the name weren't already taken, it would be called the Michael Morton Act. That title was taken in 2013 by SB 1611, another bill by Ellis, barring prosecutors from hiding relevant information from defense attorneys during discovery. This bill would revise the standard for a convicted person to request a new DNA test, and the standard for exculpatory evidence. If passed, there would only have to be "a reasonable likelihood" of evidence containing biological material to get a scientific review. That's relevant to Morton, who spent 25 years in prison for the 1986 murder of his wife, while Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley and prosecutor Ken Anderson doggedly resisted any attempts to get a bandana found at the crime scene tested. When it was, Morton was exonerated, and the evidence gathered pointed to Mark Alan Norwood, who was eventually convicted. Since then, the Court of Criminal Appeals has reinterpreted the current law in favor of prosecutors, and it may take another Morton bill to avoid another Morton-sized injustice.

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