The daughter of a 1980 murder victim and a man convicted of killing his wife in 1987 have asked a federal court to force Williamson County to release evidence from both crimes for DNA testing.In an era when we've seen so many DNA-based exonerations, I can't imagine Williamson DA John Bradley's justification for not acquiescing to DNA tests, particularly when the victim's family is demanding it. His office doesn't even have to pay for the procedure.
Pat Stapleton, 75, who discovered her mother's battered body, says she hopes the results lead to Mildred McKinney's killer.
Michael Morton hopes the tests will help overturn his life sentence in the death of his wife, Christine.
Both women were beaten to death in the ransacked bedrooms of their Georgetown homes, which were about a half-mile apart. Both were attacked so severely in their beds that blood splattered nearby walls. And both bodies were covered by household items — the 73-year-old McKinney by a reclining chair, small table and vacuum cleaner, and Morton by a suitcase, bedding and a wicker basket.
"I'd like to know that whoever is responsible is in prison or has been executed, and that all this can end," Stapleton said.
Morton spent years asking state courts to allow DNA testing in his case but has not been able to force Williamson County to make evidence available from the McKinney murder.
Lawyers from the Innocence Project in New York say they hope filing a lawsuit in federal court will break the impasse.
The Innocence Project, which helped file the lawsuit, would cover costs of testing.
"For more than three years, the local prosecutor has fought DNA and fingerprint testing that could prove Michael Morton's innocence and finally solve both of these crimes," said Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck. "Patricia Stapleton and Michael Morton come from very different backgrounds, but they have a common goal to use science and every available law enforcement tool to finally reveal the truth in these cases and find justice for their loved ones."
Mr. Bradley is one of those prosecutors who routinely waves the Victim Rights flag whenever he wants to justify whatever egregious legal overstep he's most recently undertaken. But when victim interests might cause him to investigate whether his office made a mistake, suddenly he's not so pro-victim after all.
In perhaps the gravest irony, demonstrating Mr. Bradley is simply out of touch with the issue, the prosecutor opined that "the public might want to remain skeptical of a defendant who to this day doesn't accept responsibility," ignoring the fact that the defendant is claiming the DNA will prove actual innocence! Why should he "accept responsibility" if he didn't do it?
I don't know how the DNA test will turn out and have no way of knowing whether or not Mr. Morton committed the crime. If he did, the DNA should prove it once and for all. But there's just no excuse for a District Attorney simply not wanting to find out, especially when untested evidence exists and the victim's family isn't satisfied they got the right guy.
More at Eye on Williamson County.