Judge Sid Harle formally exonerated Michael Morton in a Georgetown courtroom Monday. Now, Morton’s attorneys are seeking a “court of inquiry” into whether or not there was prosecutorial misconduct during the original investigation that led to Morton's conviction.
Morton, 56, was found guilty of murder after his wife Christine was discovered bludgeoned to death in her bedroom in August of 1986. He spent more than 24 years behind bars before DNA evidence led to his release from prison this October.
Morton's attorneys are asking Judge Harle to embark on a fact-finding mission into whether or not the prosecutors in the trial, former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson and Assistant District Attorney Mike Davis, withheld evidence in Morton's 1987 murder trial that led to his wrongful murder conviction.
Morton's attorney, John Raley, released a report against Anderson shortly before the hearing. In it, he states Anderson is guilty of a felony offense because he failed to present to the defense and then-presiding Judge William Lott a file of evidence collected by the primary investigator in Christine’s murder, Sgt. Don Wood.
“There’s certain cases in the history of our country that have taken our law forward, that have brought reforms, so we can seek mores justice in our courts,” Raley said. “This is one of those cases.”
Dubbed “The Wood Report,” the file contains findings Raley believes would have proved Morton’s innocence.
One of the allegations state, “Mr. Anderson committed a felony offense because he intended Judge Lott and defense counsel to believe that the few documents disclosed were the complete Wood Report, and because he intended to harm Mr. Morton‘s defense by depriving him of exculpatory evidence.”
Next, Judge Harle will review the report to determine if he can indeed grant a court of inquiry to the case.
Anderson was not present at Monday's hearing. However, he's already been compelled under a court order to answer questions during two 12-hour meetings. Anderson was grilled about evidence not presented in the original trial, including a recording of Morton’s 3-year-old son telling his grandmother that a monster, who was not his father, killed his mother; a credit card transaction and check cashed under Christine’s name; and a suspicious green vehicle reported in the neighborhood around the time of the murder.
Testimony from David Arnold, an Assistant District Attorney in Williamson County at the time of Morton's trial, is also provided in the Wood Report. In it, Arnold admits that when a Court of Appeals later ruled there was no Brady evidence withheld in the investigation, it was because not all of the findings were presented in court in the first place.
Brady material is any exculpatory evidence that would sway the guilt or innocence of a defendant in court.
Here’s an excerpt of an exchange between John Raley, the lawyer representing Morton, and Arnold:
RALEY: I believe what you're saying is the finding of the Court of Appeals that there was no Brady material was made in the darkness because they didn't have all the material to review.
ARNOLD: Right. Right.
RALEY: And what they've noted in that last bit about, "We don't have anything in the record to conclude that documents were not turned over," means that they're bound by that record.
ARNOLD: No. I think -- I understand what you're saying; that is that anybody -- the stuff should have been turned over at trial. The stuff should have been included in the record. At this point, you're right. They still have a continuing duty to turn it over, even if they haven't at this point.
Anderson has since apologized for Morton’s wrongful conviction. He said the criminal justice system failed, but that he acted within the law during the trial.
Morton was freed from prison on Oct. 4, when newly-tested DNA evidence cleared his name. One month later, police arrested another man, 57-year-old Mark Alan Norwood, for the murder.
“A lot of people think I want a pound of flesh, and as I mentioned to the judge, revenge is a natural instinct, but it’s not what I’m asking for. Just accountability,” Morton said.
The Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability filed complaints with the State Bar last month, listing at least a dozen professional conduct violations by the prosecution.
Anderson's attorney told YNN that Anderson did not do anything wrong and acted within the requirements of the law at the time.
Year in Review: Take a look back on how Micheal Morton's exoneration unfolded in 2011 in the video below.
YNN: Morton exonerated, Anderson faces felony allegations
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