A mystery file, unsealed after 24 years in storage at an Austin courthouse, indicates that prosecutors or investigators perpetrated a fraud to secure the murder conviction and life sentence for Michael Morton in 1987, the Innocence Project of New York alleged in a court filing Tuesday.At some point, given the results of recent DNA testing in the case, you have to wonder why Williamson County DA John Bradley would continue to defend such prosecutorial antics, since they all happened on a predecessor's watch. The Williamson County Democratic Party thinks the reason is that "the prosecutor in this case was now-Williamson County District Court Judge Ken Anderson," the blog Eye on Williamson County points out. That could indeed explain it. The blog Wilco Watchdog has been all over the story, for those interested in more details.
The file, sealed under a 1987 court order amid Morton's appeals, was ordered open last week as part of the Innocence Project's claim that recent DNA tests prove Morton did not kill is wife, Christine.
The file was supposed to contain all materials produced by Williamson County sheriff's Sgt. Don Wood, now retired, as the lead investigator into Christine Morton's murder, the Innocence Project said.
Instead, the file contained only Wood's five-page report detailing the investigation's first day and a one-page consent form, signed by Michael Morton, allowing his house and pickup to be searched.
The skimpy file raised the "specter of official misconduct," the Innocence Project alleged in court papers, because it did not include recently revealed evidence that could have raised questions about Morton's guilt, including the transcript of a taped conversation between Wood and Christine Morton's mother 11 days after the murder. According to the typed transcript, the Mortons' 3-year-old son indicated that he had witnessed the killing and said his father, Michael Morton, was not home at the time.
"If trial prosecutors had the transcript in their 1987 file and willfully concealed it from this court and/or the Court of Appeals, then they have committed fraud on the court of the highest order — and in the process, condemned an innocent man to prison for a quarter-century," the Innocence Project motion reads.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Did exculpatory evidence withheld in Morton case amount to 'fraud' by Willamson County prosecutors?
The lede to the latest Austin Statesman story on the Michael Morton case in Williamson County is both brutal and startling: