POLITICAL observations & opinions

* A Texas man wrongfully convicted in 1987 of murdering his wife is scheduled to be officially exonerated on Monday … after 25 years in prison … This is an issue that affects all of us. If a prosecutor in Texas can hide evidence to convict Mr. Morton, then another prosecutor can hide evidence to convict you or me.

Posted by Lew Weinstein on December 19, 2011

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Michael Morton on the day of his release in October. He served nearly 25 years for the murder of his wife before being cleared. ... photo by Callie Richmond for The Texas Tribune

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John Schwartz and Brandi Grissom report in the NYT (12/19/11) …

  • A Texas man wrongfully convicted in 1987 of murdering his wife is scheduled to be officially exonerated on Monday.
  • lawyers for the man, Michael Morton … are expected to file a request for a special hearing to determine whether the prosecutor broke state laws or ethics rules by withholding evidence that could have led to Mr. Morton’s acquittal 25 years ago.
  • The prosecutor (in Mr. Morton’s case), Ken Anderson, a noted expert on Texas criminal law, is now a state district judge.
  • Mr. Anderson convinced the jury that Mr. Morton, in a rage over his wife’s romantic rebuff the previous night — on Mr. Morton’s 32nd birthday — savagely beat her to death.
  • Mr. Morton was sentenced to life in prison. Beginning in 2005, he pleaded with the court to test DNA on a blue bandanna found near his home shortly after the murder, along with other evidence.
  • For six years, the Williamson County district attorney, John Bradley, fought the request for DNA testing, based on advice from Judge Anderson, his predecessor and friend.
  • In 2010, however, a Texas court ordered the DNA testing, and the results showed that Mrs. Morton’s blood on the bandanna was mixed with the DNA of another man: Mark A. Norwood, a felon with a long criminal history who lived about 12 miles from the Mortons at the time of the murder.
  • By then, Mr. Morton had spent nearly 25 years in prison.
  • Mr. Norwood has been arrested and charged in Mrs. Morton’s death and is a suspect in a similar murder from 1988.
  • The filing by Mr. Morton’s lawyer, John Raley, and attorneys from the Innocence Project …will ask the court to determine that there is probable cause to believe that Mr. Anderson withheld reports that the judge in the 1987 trial had ordered him to turn over.
  • In August (2011), however, a different judge ordered the record unsealed, and Mr. Morton’s lawyers discovered that Mr. Anderson had provided only a fraction of the available evidence.
  • Missing from the file was the transcript of a telephone conversation between a sheriff’s deputy and Mr. Morton’s mother-in-law in which she reported that her 3-year-old grandson had seen a “monster” — who was not his father — attack and kill his mother.
  • Also missing were police reports from Mr. Morton’s neighbors, who said they had seen a man in a green van repeatedly park near their home and walk into the woods behind their house.
  • And there were even reports, also never turned over, that Mrs. Morton’s credit card had been used and a check with her forged signature cashed after her death.
  • In October, Judge Sid Harle of Bexar County District Court freed Mr. Morton based on the DNA evidence and authorized an unusual process allowing his defense lawyers to investigate the prosecutor’s conduct in the original trial.
  • If the court of inquiry ends with a finding that Mr. Anderson committed serious acts of misconduct by concealing material evidence, it could lead to disciplinary action by the state bar association and possibly even a criminal prosecution.
  • Experts, however, are skeptical that Judge Anderson could face serious punishment or disbarment, even if the court were to decide that he had committed malfeasance.
  • While withholding material evidence intentionally can get a lawyer disbarred, Ms. Klein said, “It’s extremely unlikely.”

read the entire article at … http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/19/us/texas-man-seeks-inquiry-after-exoneration-in-murder.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

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LMW COMMENT …

  • It is infuriating that prosecutors routinely get away with withholding evidence (and sometimes creating evidence) that results in convictions of persons for crimes they did not commit.

This is an issue that affects all of us.

If a prosecutor in Texas can hide evidence to convict Mr. Morton,

then another prosecutor can hide evidence to convict you or me.

  • Our criminal justice system requires fairness. Court rules require the prosecutor to turn over to the defense any evidence which might be exculpatory, i.e., which might tend to prove innocence or otherwise weaken the prosecutor’s case.
  • Many prosecutors follow the law, seeking justice rather than an artificially inflated conviction rate. But some, apparently like Prosecutor Anderson in the case reported above, feel they must cheat to get a conviction.
  • This prosecutorial abuse is a cancer on the American justice system.
  • Prosecutors who are later proven to have cheated to get convictions, who have sent innocent defendants to prison for long periods of time, some of them to executions, are almost never prosecuted themselves.

The courts and other prosecutors usually refuse

to prosecute their prosecutorial colleagues.

  • I was so incensed by this state of affairs that I wrote a novel, called A Good Conviction. It is the story of a young man in New York City, convicted of a murder by a prosecutor who knew he was innocent and hid the exculpatory evidence. I think it portrays the agony and frustration that a wrongly-convicted person and those who try to help him must feel.
  • If you are concerned about the purposeful conviction of innocent people, I recommend that you add A Good Conviction to your reading list. It’s available in paper and kindle at amazon.

** purchase A GOOD CONVICTION by Lew Weinstein at amazon.com

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