The overturned conviction for a 1985 bombing against Michael Toney in Tarrant County was secured using a jailhouse snitch and apparent prosecutorial misconduct, evidence which later fell apart on appeal resulting in his release from death row last month. Prosecutors said they planned to retry him, but Toney died in a single-vehicle auto accident on Saturday, so they may never know at the end of the day exactly what happened. Reports the Star-Telegram:
The case went unsolved for 14 years until a Parker County jail inmate told authorities that Toney confessed while serving time there on unrelated charges. The prisoner soon recanted, saying he made up the story to win early release.
No physical evidence connected Toney to the bombing. He was convicted largely on the testimony of his ex-wife and former best friend, who said they saw him plant the bomb.
Another prisoner, who also later recanted, testified that Toney told him that he was paid $5,000 to plant the bomb but that he left it outside the wrong trailer.
Later, Toney’s defense team uncovered 14 documents that Tarrant County prosecutors withheld from his defense during the trial, including records suggesting that investigators may have crafted witnesses’ accounts.
His attorneys have called Toney’s conviction one of the most "egregious cases" they have seen.
In December, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Toney’s conviction, saying his trial was unconstitutional because Tarrant County prosecutors improperly withheld evidence.
The Tarrant County district attorney’s office recused itself from the case. In September, the Texas attorney general dropped the charges against Toney but retained the option to retry the case after further evaluation of the evidence.
Toney was released from jail Sept. 2.
An official with Autry Funeral Home in Jacksonville confirmed Sunday that it is handling Toney’s funeral but that no dates have been set.
On Sunday, a supporter wrote in an e-mail that in his one month of freedom Toney was painting his house in Rusk. He had also bought a pickup and gotten a dog from an animal shelter.
"Michael really enjoyed living out in the country, and he was a country boy at heart," the e-mail said. "His future looked very promising."