Williamson County

Williamson County

A 19-year-old in Round Rock is no longer facing the possibility of life in prison for allegedly making marijuana brownies and selling them for $25 each. The case involving Jacob Lavoro attracted national attention. An online petition against the punishment has more than a quarter million signatures. 

Williamson County assistant District Attorney Mark Brunner says they decided not to pursue a charge based on the total weight of the brownies to avoid jury "distraction" during a possible trial. 


Austin’s Annual Community Celebration:

The annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march from the University of Texas at Austin campus to Huston-Tillotson University starts at 9 a.m. Marchers will meet at the MLK statue near Speedway and West 23rd Street at UT.

An MLK Day festival begins at Huston-Tillotson after the march. It runs until 3 p.m.

There will be some road and lane closures for the march and festival – affected roadways include the I-35 frontage roads, North Congress Avenue and 11th Street.

Click here to see the full parade route.

Last week, Forbes magazine ranked Williamson County America’s fastest-growing county. Although Williamson County’s 7.94 percent growth rate has had positive impacts on its economy, the boom has put a strain on existing infrastructure.

Yesterday, Williamson County voters responded by approving two bond packages aimed at helping county infrastructure keep up with growth. The two propositions:

  • Prop 1, adding $275 million to the county’s budget for road improvements and construction, passed with 64 percent of the vote.
  • Prop 2, earmarking $40 million to upgrade the county’s park system, passed with nearly 55 percent.

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.


Starting tomorrow, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization – better known as CAMPO – begins asking for the public’s ideas on a series of projects.

Some projects are being dropped, while others are being picked up for consideration. 

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. 


Williamson County is ranked as the healthiest county in the Lone Star State, according to a collection of  county health rankings

The study from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that Williamson County is the healthiest county in Texas this year, ahead of Collin County in Northeast Texas.


Good morning. The National Weather Service says sunny and warm weather is the order of the day, with expected highs in the mid-70s.

Lead Story: Ten people have died in traffic accidents in Austin so far this year. That’s twice as many as this time last year.

The city has launched a survey as part of an effort to reverse that trend, looking for feedback on how to make Austin safer for cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians. You can find the survey on the city’s website.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Good morning! You’ll need to bundle up: The National Weather Service says cold temperatures are sticking around today, with Austin looking at a high in the upper 40. Here’s what’s happening this chilly Jan. 2:

Here Comes KUTX: New Year’s Day has come and gone, but today marks a new start for KUT: Beginning today, KUT 90.5 FM changes from its current programming mix of news and music to around-the-clock news and information. KUT’s familiar music personalities – including John Aielli, Laurie Gallardo, Paul Ray, Jay Trachtenberg and company – begin broadcasting 24-hour music on KUT’s new frequency, KUTX 98.9 FM.

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."


Williamson County released its unofficial elections totals early this morning, following a technical delay that required one of the voting machines to be read by a technician.

Following poll closures last night, one of the iVotronic machines at a Williamson County precinct malfunctioned and election administrators at the precinct were unable to access the results from that machine. Administrators called a technician to obtain the results from the machine. 

"The backlight went out on one of our voting machines and so the election judge couldn't see the screen in order to get it properly closed. And so we had a technician that had come down from Dallas to repair the machine so that we could get the votes counted from that machine," Connie Watson, Public Affairs Manager for Williamson County, says.

Tyler Pratt for KUT News

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.

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. 

Howdy Duty!

May 29, 2012
Photo illustration by Brandi Grissom, Todd Wiseman for the Texas Tribune

Update 11:33 p. m.:

Challenger Jana Duty has unseated incumbent John Bradley, garnering 55% of the vote.

Original Post:

Early voting results are in for Williamson County, where the Republican primary race for District Attorney is arguably the one to watch.

Challenger Jana Duty has 53 percent of the vote compared to incumbent John Bradley’s 47 percent. Less than 700 votes separate the candidates. A little more than 1,500 votes were tallied in early voting.

Duty has made Bradley’s handling of the Michael Morton case a central plank of her campaign.

She told YNN last night: "The policies and procedures have to change because those procedures that was in place 25 years ago in the Michael Morton case, are still in place today,” Duty said. “We have to have an open discovery policy, we have to have fairness."

Photo illustration by Brandi Grissom and Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Michael Morton’s name isn’t on the ballot, and he isn’t endorsing anyone in what has become a nasty campaign to become the next district attorney in tough-on-crime Williamson County. 

But his wrongful conviction is the central issue in the GOP primary fight between incumbent District Attorney John Bradley — who spent five years opposing DNA testing that ultimately exonerated Morton — and County Attorney Jana Duty.

While Morton may be staying out of the fray, many close to his case have decided to get involved, hoping, they say, to change the way justice is meted out in Williamson County by urging voters to hold Bradley accountable.

Photo by Spencer Selvidge, Texas Tribune

GEORGETOWN — Attorneys for the Texas attorney general's office today asked Williamson County state district Judge Burt Carnes to issue a gag order in the case of Mark Alan Norwood, the 57-year-old Bastrop resident who is facing trial in the 1986 murder of Christine Morton.

"There exists an ongoing serious and imminent threat to the integrity of the administration of justice in these causes as a result of such extrajudicial statements," Assistant Attorney General Lisa Tanner wrote in the motion seeking to silence parties in the case.

Judge Barnes said he would take the motion under advisement.

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.

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.

Williamson County attorney Jana Duty announced this morning that she will run for district attorney. Duty will challenge the incumbent DA, John Bradley, in the Republican primary on March 6.

A central theme of Duty’s campaign will be the bungling of the Michael Morton case. Morton was convicted of murdering his wife in 1987 and spent 25 years behind bars before he was exonerated by DNA evidence in October.

courtesy flickr.com/morclaud/

As rain gradually rehydrates Central Texas, counties are tentatively lifting their burn bans. Williamson County commissioners decided today to lift a ban for one week.

Travis County Commissioners voted two weeks ago to cancel a ban that had been in effect for virtually a year. Today, they agreed to keep the ban lifted.

Across Central Texas, burn bans have been abolished in Hays, Caldwell, Guadalupe, Comal, Blanco, and Burnet Counties. Even Bastrop, a county ravaged by wildfire in September, voted to lift its burn ban last week.