Governor Rick Perry signed the Michael Morton Act this afternoon, a law that will require prosecutors in criminal cases to share evidence with defense attorneys.
The Governor characterized Texas as a “law and order” state and that the new law will allow judicial process to be as transparent and as open as humanly possible when it goes into effect in September of this year.
“Senate Bill 1611 helps serve that case, making our system more fair, helping prevent wrongful convictions and, for that matter, any penalties that are harsher than what is warranted by the facts,” Perry said.
The bill is named for Central Texan Michael Morton who was wrongly convicted of killing his wife in 1987 and spent almost 25 years in prison, but was cleared by DNA evidence last year.
Whether the prosecution in his case withheld evidence is under review.
The bill’s author, Sen. Rodney Ellis, D- Houston, said the bill was a part of a “journey” towards justice for Texas.
Ellis said lawmakers’ efforts to establish an exoneration commission in HB 166 is another part of that journey to justice in Texas, but the effort may not pass muster this session.
“I’d say it’s on life support,” Ellis said. “But the Michael Morton Act had to be resuscitated a number of times.”