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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Texas
12:39 pm
Thu February 16, 2012

Ft Worth Judge To Lead Ken Anderson Court of Inquiry

Michael Morton hearing on February 10, 2012 at the Williamson Co. Courthouse.
Photo by Spencer Selvidge, Texas Tribune

Tarrant County state district Judge Louis Sturns will lead a court of inquiry to investigate allegations of criminal prosecutorial misconduct against former prosecutor Ken Anderson, who saw to the wrongful murder conviction of Michael Morton in 1987.

Morton was exonerated of his wife's 1986 bludgeoning death in October after DNA tests confirmed his innocence. Defense lawyers have alleged that the wrongful conviction would not have happened and Morton would not have lost 25 years in prison if Anderson, who is now a Williamson County judge, had not deliberately withheld evidence that indicated his innocence at the time of the 1987 trial.

“This is a historic moment for Texas justice," said John Raley, the Houston lawyer who has worked pro bono on Morton's case for seven years. "We are confident that Judge Sturns will handle this important case with the seriousness and probity demonstrated by Judge [Sid] Harle and [Texas Supreme Court] Justice [Wallace] Jefferson.”

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Austin
4:34 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

Judge Orders Court of Inquiry for Morton Prosecutor

Photo by Callie Richmond, Texas Tribune

GEORGETOWN — Judge Sid Harle said today he will recommend that Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson convene a court of inquiry to review a slew of evidence against former Williamson County prosecutor Ken Anderson and determine whether there is probable cause to press criminal charges of prosecutorial misconduct related to his work in 1987 to secure a wrongful murder conviction that sent Michael Morton to prison for life.

In addition to allowing a full public airing of the evidence, the Bexar County state district judge said the unique legal proceeding would allow Anderson, who is now a district judge, the opportunity to clear his name.

“The only method and venue I know of for that to occur and for Mr. Morton’s interests to be served” is a court of inquiry, Harle said.

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Texas
6:07 pm
Wed February 1, 2012

Williamson County Grand Jury Indicts Mark Norwood

Mark Alan Norwood was indicted by a Williamson County grand jury for the murder of Christine Morton in 1986.
Photo by Spencer Selvidge/Texas Tribune

A Williamson County grand jury today returned a capital murder indictment against 57-year-old Bastrop resident Mark Alan Norwood in the 1986 murder of Christine Morton, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced.

“An indictment in a cold case cannot bring back the life that was unnecessarily taken, but this is a big step toward answering long unresolved questions for the crime victim’s family,” Abbott said in a press release.

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year in review
2:15 pm
Tue December 27, 2011

Most-Read Stories of 2011: Perry, UT, the Budget

Image courtesy Texas Tribune

As 2011 comes to a close, we are taking a look back at the stories our readers liked best, judging by the number of pageviews they received.

With our governor jumping into the GOP presidential fray in August, stories about Rick Perry quickly and definitively became the most popular on the Trib site. And he didn't fail to provide excellent material. Seven of the 10 most-read stories this year are about Perry — his politics, his past and his policy stances.

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Central Texas
10:01 am
Tue November 29, 2011

Lawyer Group Files Grievances in Morton Case

Judge and former prosecutor Ken Anderson speaks about the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton.
Photo by Justin Dehn, Texas Tribune

The Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability filed grievances with the State Bar of Texas on Monday against former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson, his former assistant Mike Davis and current District Attorney John Bradley, alleging that the prosecutors violated state laws and professional ethics in the case against Michael Morton.

Morton was released last month after spending nearly 25 years in prison, wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife in 1986. Morton's lawyers have discovered that prosecutors did not turn over to defense attorneys or the trial judge evidence that pointed to another man as the murderer and could have prevented the wrongful conviction.

The State Bar would not confirm receipt of the grievances, but the agency said last month that it had launched its own investigation of prosecutorial misconduct in the case. Morton's lawyers are also pursuing their own investigation of alleged wrongdoing.

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Central Texas
5:05 pm
Wed November 9, 2011

Suspect in Michael Morton Case Identified

Photo courtesy of Texas Tribune

A suspect whose DNA has been linked to the 1986 murder of Christine Morton and the 1988 murder of Debra Baker is on his way to the Williamson County Jail, according to John Raley, attorney for Michael Morton. Morton was exonerated of his wife's murder last month, based on the DNA evidence that showed someone else committed the crime. 

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Crime
11:28 am
Fri October 21, 2011

From Botched Morton Case, Hope Emerges in Cold Inquiry

Almost everything that Caitlin and Jesse Baker know about their mother, who was mysteriously murdered 23 years ago when they were small children, comes from memories shared by relatives and from fading family photos of the smiling, petite brunette.

Over the years, aunts and uncles told them stories about their protective and generous sister. Their father recalled the loving wife who seemed to live in her pink sweat suit. Their grandmother shared pictures of their mother’s favorite horse, Molly, and tattered newspaper clippings of articles she wrote as a student journalist.

But no one has been able to answer the question that has tormented the Baker children for years: Who entered their North Austin home on Jan. 13, 1988, and beat Debra Masters Baker to death?

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Texas
6:07 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Morton Released From East Texas Prison After 25 Years

Debra Jan Baker, Michael Morton (center), Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley
Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman

GEORGETOWN — With an irrepressible grin, Michael Morton walked out of the Williamson County courthouse today, hand-in-hand with his sister Vicky Warlick, into a free world he last saw when Ronald Reagan was president.

Morton was released today from the Michael state prison unit near Palestine in East Texas, a day after his defense lawyers and Williamson County prosecutors agreed that his conviction for the 1986 murder of his wife Christine Morton should be overturned based on the results of recent DNA testing.

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Texas
1:52 pm
Mon October 3, 2011

Prosecutors Concede Morton Did Not Murder His Wife

Debra Jan Baker, Michael Morton (center), Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley
Photo by Todd Wiseman

Michael Morton, who served 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife Christine, will be released after his attorneys reached an agreement with prosecutors, who said today in a legal filing that Morton was not his wife's killer.

Prosecutors conceded that there is evidence of Morton's "actual innocence." 

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Texas
1:32 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

TDCJ Will End Final Feasts Before Executions

The Walls Unit at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville, where the state conducts executions.
Image courtesy flickr.com/BizarreRecords

The long-standing tradition of allowing death row inmates one last special meal of their choosing before they enter the execution chamber ends today, said Brad Livingston, executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

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Texas
11:07 am
Fri September 2, 2011

Under Perry, Executions Raise Questions

Photo illustration by Bob Daemmrich/Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

As Gov. Rick Perry touts his tough-on-crime policies on the national political stage, the case of Cameron Todd Willingham will continue to be scrutinized. Scientists have raised questions about whether Willingham set the blaze that killed his three daughters and led to his 2004 execution.

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Texas
5:34 pm
Wed August 17, 2011

DNA Implicates Another Man in 25-Year-Old Murder Case

Presiding Officer of the Texas Forensic Science Commission John Bradley during a commission meeting April 14th, 2011.
Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera/The Texas Tribune

New DNA test results in a 25-year-old murder case show that another man, not Michael Morton, likely killed Christine Morton, who was found dead in her Williamson County home on Aug. 13, 1986, Morton's attorneys say.

The attorneys have also asked a court to recuse John Bradley, the Williamson County district attorney and former chairman of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, from the case, saying that for years he didn't release evidence he knew could prove Morton, 57, did not murder his wife.

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Texas
4:42 pm
Tue August 9, 2011

Texas Inmates Complain of Sweltering Prison Conditions

Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

In letters from his prison cell at the McConnell Unit in Beeville, Susan Fenner’s son describes miserably hot and dangerous conditions. The temperature is more than 100 degrees outside, and the heat radiates through his tiny un-air conditioned box of a cell in administrative segregation.

“There’s not much circulation, and it’s just horrible,” said Fenner, who is executive director of the Texas Inmate Family Association.

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Texas
4:26 pm
Fri July 22, 2011

New Head of Forensic Science Panel Takes On Arson Case

With a smile and a friendly laugh, Dr. Nizam Peerwani offers coupons for free autopsies to visitors to his office.

Death and the science of it have dominated Peerwani’s 30-year career in the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office. Now, Peerwani is taking on a very live controversy as chairman of the Texas Forensic Science Commission: the continuing investigation into the arson science that led to the conviction and 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham.

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Texas
9:58 am
Thu July 14, 2011

Texas Communities Struggle to Fund Public Safety

By Todd Wiseman for the Texas Tribune

The tiny East Texas town of Alto made national headlines this summer when it furloughed its five-man police department in an effort to save money in this ailing economy.

But Alto is hardly the only Texas community struggling to fund public safety amid falling tax revenues and shrinking state and federal aid. Most cities aren't taking the drastic measures Alto did, but they're finding other ways to scale back costs, said Bennett Sandlin, executive director of the Texas Municipal League.

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Politics
7:45 pm
Mon June 20, 2011

Perry Adds TSA Anti-Groping Bill to Special Session Call

Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

This story featured additional reporting from Beth Brown.

Gov. Rick Perry this evening announced the addition of TSA anti-groping legislation to the agenda for the special legislative session. In a statement, he said lawmakers could consider legislation "relating to the prosecution and punishment for the offense of official oppression on those seeking access to public buildings and transportation."

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Politics
2:39 pm
Wed June 15, 2011

House Tentatively Passes Windstorm Insurance Bill

State Rep. John Smithee (c), R-Amarillo, listens to Texas Gov. Rick Perry (r) on the House floor on May 28, 2011.
Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

The Texas House today approved a measure meant to bolster the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, the state's largest provider of hurricane insurance. It's a bill that has pitted Republican Gov. Rick Perry and trial lawyer Steve Mostyn, the largest Democratic donor in Texas, against one another, and it's a key reason that lawmakers are in a special legislative session.

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Politics
10:17 am
Sat May 21, 2011

Texas House Gives Smoking Ban Early OK

A final attempt to get a smoking ban passed in Texas had initial success Friday night.
Photo by KUT News

The Texas House tentatively approved a statewide ban on smoking in public places Friday night, adding the measure onto another bill that must pass in order to make the two-year state budget balance.

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Politics
5:18 pm
Sat May 7, 2011

Texas House Meltdown Ends in GOP Show of Force

It was a day of procedural maneuvers on the House floor.
Photo Courtesy The Texas Tribune

A day of parliamentary chaos in the House ended with the passage of Gov. Rick Perry’s newest emergency item: a tort reform bill. And a powerful message from Republicans to Democrats: mess with us at your own peril.

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