Brandi Grissom, Texas Tribune

Reporter with The Texas Tribune

Brandi Grissom joined the Tribune after four years at the El Paso Times, where she acted as a one-woman Capitol bureau during the last two legislative sessions. Grissom won the Associated Press Managing Editors First-Place Award in 2007 for using the Freedom of Information Act to report stories on a variety of government programs and entities, and the ACLU of Texas named her legislative reporter of the year in 2007 for her immigration reporting. She previously served as managing editor at The Daily Texan and has worked for the Alliance Times-Herald, the Taylor Daily Press, the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung and The Associated Press. A native of Alliance, Neb., she has a degree in history from the University of Texas.

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Criminal Justice
11:56 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Solitary Confinement Study Approved but Lacks Funding

Texas lawmakers have yet to review the state's solitary confinement, including costs, frequency and effects of the policy on inmates.
Caleb Bryant Miller for Texas Tribune

Last year, lawmakers approved and Gov.Rick Perry signed a bill that requires adetailed review of the use of solitary confinement in Texas prisons.

Four months after the measure became law, though, the committee charged with hiring an independent party to study solitary confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice hasn’t met and has no intention to.

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Politics
7:51 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Van de Putte To Announce Future Political Plans on Friday

Texas Tribune

Sources close to state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, say she is poised to make an announcement on her political future on Friday. But the likely Democratic contender for lieutenant governor is expected to do what gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis did: reveal a future date for a formal announcement.

“I can't think of somebody who would be a better lieutenant governor for Texas," Democratic consultant Glenn Smith said. "With her legislative experience, the deep care she has for Texas and its future, her work ethic, her honesty, I mean she’d be darn near perfect.”

If Van de Putte throws her name in, she'd be the only Democrat seeking the post currently held by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who is facing a Republican primary challenge from state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples.  

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Williamson County
4:33 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

Judge Ken Anderson Resigns Amid Ethics Lawsuit

Former judge and prosecutor Ken Anderson, speaking about the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton.
Justin Dehn, Texas Tribune

Williamson County state district Judge Ken Anderson, who oversaw the wrongful murder conviction of Michael Morton in 1987, submitted a letter to Gov. Rick Perry on Monday resigning his position effective immediately.

Anderson is facing both civil and criminal court proceedings for his role in prosecuting Morton for the 1986 murder of his wife, Christine Morton. Attorneys for Morton allege that Anderson withheld critical evidence that pointed to Morton's innocence and that he lied to the judge about the existence of that evidence. Morton was sentenced to life in prison and spent nearly 25 years behind bars before DNA testing revealed that he was innocent and connected another man to his wife's killing. He was released from prison in 2011.

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Texas
10:55 am
Tue April 9, 2013

Huffman Wants 'Michael Morton Act' to Add Restriction

Michael Morton (left) and State Senator Joan Huffman (R-Southside Place)
Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

A fight over what defense lawyers can do with information about their clients in criminal cases after prosecutors turn it over to them is threatening to stymie the “Michael Morton Act.” 

The measure, Senate Bill 1611 by state Sens. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, would require prosecutors to turn over evidence to defense lawyers in criminal cases. Currently, prosecutors aren't required to provide evidence to defense lawyers unless ordered to by the court, though many Texas prosecutors have some form of open file policy.

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Crime
11:00 am
Thu March 28, 2013

Tears and Relief After Norwood Found Guilty

Mark Norwood exits the Tom Green County Courthouse after jury selection for his trial, Mar 18, 2013.
Callie Richmond, Texas Tribune

SAN ANGELO — Family members of Christine Morton and Debra Baker filled a Tom Green County courtroom with tearful hugs and relieved smiles on Wednesday after a jury found Mark Alan Norwood guilty of murder.

Norwood, 58, received an automatic life sentence after the jury decided he was guilty of the Aug. 13, 1986 killing of Christine Morton, who was beaten to death in her North Austin home. 

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Crime
7:12 am
Mon March 18, 2013

Trial Switches Focus of Morton Case to Alleged Killer

Mark Norwood being led into court for the first time on Jan. 18th 2011. He is charged with the 1986 murder of Christine Morton.
Spencer Selvidge

Mark Norwood, charged with the 1986 murder of Christine Morton — a crime that her husband, Michael Morton, was wrongfully convicted of — will go on trial Monday in San Angelo.

Michael Morton had spent nearly a quarter-century behind bars before DNA testing exonerated him in 2011 and connected Norwood, a 58-year-old former Bastrop dishwasher, to the beating death.

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Texas
1:08 pm
Tue February 26, 2013

Whitmire Bill Aims to Improve Prosecutor Accountability

State Sen. John Whitmire
Texas Tribune

Taking a lesson from the high-profile exoneration of Michael Morton, state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, filed a bill Tuesday that aims to ensure more accountability for prosecutors who are accused of withholding evidence that results in a wrongful conviction.

"It's an effort to have accountability and transparency and to make the system more fair," Whitmire said, adding that he believes the measure will pass.

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Texas
8:09 am
Sat February 9, 2013

Ken Anderson's Testimony Caps Dramatic Inquiry

The court of inquiry explores former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson's role in the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton, Feb 6, 2013.
Callie Richmond, Texas Tribune

Defiant, angry and frustrated, former prosecutor Ken Anderson took the stand on Friday to defend himself, ending a week of dramatic testimony in an usual court of inquiry that is examining whether the former district attorney committed criminal misconduct during the trial that led to the wrongful murder conviction of Michael Morton.

Morton was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for his wife’s murder, and he spent nearly 25 years behind bars before DNA evidence led to his exoneration in 2011. Lawyers for the exoneree contend that Anderson deliberately withheld critical evidence that could have prevented Morton’s wrongful conviction. Anderson adamantly denied any wrongdoing, and in his often impassioned testimony criticized the court of inquiry. 

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Texas
12:11 pm
Fri January 4, 2013

Clearing Texas Rape Kit Backlog Brings Hefty Price Tag

Pictured is a sexual assault evidence collection kit used by law enforcement throughout Texas.
Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

There are some 20,000 untested rape kits sitting on evidence shelves in police departments across Texas, the state Department of Public Safety estimates.

Each box with samples of hair, skin and clothing represents one of the worst moments of the victim’s life, a crime that was followed by hours in a doctor’s office submitting the most personal evidence.

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Texas
11:48 am
Mon November 26, 2012

Court of Inquiry in Michael Morton Case Delayed

Judge Ken Anderson (l) and Michael Morton (r)
Justin Dehn / Callie Richmond via Texas Tribune

GEORGETOWN — The court of inquiry that will determine whether the former prosecutor who oversaw the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton could face criminal charges will be delayed until Feb. 4, a prosecutor with the Texas attorney general’s office said Monday.

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Crime
12:24 pm
Fri November 9, 2012

Mark Norwood Indicted in Second Austin Murder

A booking photo of Mark Norwood.

Mark Norwood, the Bastrop dishwasher who was arrested one year ago for the 1986 murder of Christine Morton, was indicted by a Travis County grand jury on Friday for the January 1988 murder of Debra Masters Baker in Austin.

“It has been excruciating for all of us who loved Debra to wait for this day. Now, we finally have a face to put with her tragic murder,” Baker’s family said in a statement released by attorney Sam Bassett.

Norwood's attorney, Russell Hunt Jr., said his client maintains his innocence in both cases. Hunt said Norwood's mother had been subpoenaed to testify before a Travis County grand jury on Friday morning. 

"There's only one reason why" that would happen, he said. "That's if they intend to indict him."

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Texas
2:37 pm
Tue October 30, 2012

Judge in Ken Anderson Inquiry: Testimony Will Be Public

Williamson County State District Judge and former prosecutor Ken Anderson at the first hearing in the court of inquiry investigating his role in the 1987 wrongful conviction of Michael Morton.
Callie Richmond via Texas Tribune

GEORGETOWN — Williamson County State District Judge Ken Anderson sat with his back to the audience in court Tuesday as lawyers discussed how the court of inquiry examining his role in the 1987 wrongful conviction ofMichael Morton ought to proceed.

"We are trying our darndest to get ready," said Eric Nichols, Anderson's lawyer and a former prosecutor with the Texas Attorney General's Office.

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Crime
1:03 pm
Tue July 24, 2012

Williamson County Makes Arrest in 1980 Murder

Williamson County Sheriffs Office

Williamson County sheriff's investigators have arrested Steven Alan Thomas, 53, in the 1980 murder of Mildred McKinney, the agency announced Tuesday.

McKinney was 73 when her daughter found her dead in her Williamson County duplex, where she lived alone. She had been beaten, strangled and raped. The murderer stacked a recliner, end table and vacuum cleaner on her head and chest.

The sheriff's office learned that DNA from the nearly 32-year-old murder scene matched Thomas on June 27, and additional testing of DNA collected from Thomas on July 5 also matched the DNA found at the murder scene. Analysis of a fingerprint from the scene of the murder also belonged to Thomas. 

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Texas
5:24 pm
Tue July 10, 2012

Texas Changing Its Lethal Injection Protocol

via Texas Tribune

Texas will join a handful of states that use a single drug in lethal injections, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced Tuesday. 

"Implementing the change in protocol at this time will ensure that the agency is able to fulfill its statutory responsibility for all executions currently scheduled," TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark said in an email.

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