Texas
8:05 am
Fri October 5, 2012

26 Years Later: Exonerated Citizen Michael Morton Reflects

Former Williamson County resident Michael Morton was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife. Then 25 years later, he was freed after DNA evidence showed he was not guilty.

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Morton’s release. He spoke at the Texas Capitol about his experiences over the past 26 years, and the difficulties the Williamson County justice system presented in obtaining the evidence that eventually exonerated him.  

Morton told the audience: 

The odd thing about it is that The Innocence Project was willing to say “Look. Texas statute allows this. We will pay for all the expenses.  Just let us have it and we’ll do it." And for reasons that haven’t been elaborated on or maybe articulated, to mine or anyone else’s satisfaction that I’m aware of, is that they fought this. And fought this. And fought this.

The Innocence Project is a New York based group that is dedicated to exonerating wrongly convicted criminals. Along with pro bono attorney from Houston, John Raley, they fought for years to free Morton. According to a report by the Texas Tribune

As they investigated the case, they said they learned that the Williamson County sheriff and district attorney who secured Morton’s conviction had withheld critical evidence that might have prevented his conviction and helped to identify the real killer. What was more, they discovered that the man's DNA found near the scene of Christine Morton’s murder was also identified at the scene of another murder that happened a year and a half later.

On October 4, 2011 Morton walked out of a Williamson County courthouse a free man. At his conference he talked about what it was like to be free after a quarter of a century behind bars. He spoke of simple pleasures: feeling carpet underneath his bare feet, wearing comfortable clothes and showering alone for the first time in 25 years. He also talked at length about being reunited with his son, who was three at the time of his wife's murder.   

Now, Morton is pushing for state legislation that would promote prosecutorial accountability. "I don't want what happened to me, to happen to you or anybody," said Morton.  "But it can. I'm proof of that. But I think it can be [prevented] with a little bit of legislation, or procedural policy changes. Possibly something in this Capitol complex."

More information can be found on Morton's website, michael-morton.com.