District court judge Billy Ray Stubblefield, who has been on the bench since 1993, said he was not prepared to take “the extraordinary act” of recusing Bradley. He said he had a “high degree of confidence” in the two assistant district attorneys in Bradley’s office handling the appeal and that he would “take this case as seriously as any case that has come before me in 19 years on this court.” [Michael] Morton's lawyers, who include attorneys with the Innocence Project, a New York-based nonprofit, had demanded that Bradley be removed from the case. ...The real murderer might have been identified six years ago if Mr. Bradley hadn't fought DNA testing tooth and nail. Indeed, as regular Grits readers know, Bradley would likely have preferred DNA evidence had been destroyed outright to avoid exactly this outcome. In a now redacted string on the prosecutors' user forum (which Grits saved and uploaded here), Bradley advocated seeking DNA destruction as part of plea agreements on the grounds that "Innocence ... has proven to trump most anything." "A better approach," he said, "might be to get a written agreement that all the evidence can be destroyed after the conviction and sentence. Then, there is nothing to test or retest." That stance was one of the reasons Texas senators criticized the Williamson DA before rejecting his confirmation this spring as chair of the Forensic Science Commission.
Earlier this month, after the Texas Department of Public Safety ran new DNA results through the national convicted-offender DNA database, prosecutors and defense attorneys were informed that the results matched a man whose blood had been collected at some point by law enforcement authorities in California. Last week, California authorities confirmed the match. ...
At the center of Morton's appeal are the June DNA results obtained from a bloody bandana that had been found at a construction site near the couple’s home shortly after the murder. For six years, Bradley fought advanced DNA testing of the bandana and other evidence, saying Morton's attorneys were searching for a “mystery man” and “grasping at straws.” The 3rd Court of Appeals ultimately ruled in Morton's favor and ordered the testing last year. The results revealed that commingled with Christine Morton’s hair, sweat and blood on the bandana was the DNA of a man who was not Michael Morton.
Raley said his own “informal” investigations of the new suspect, who is still at large, revealed he had a history of drug abuse and assault.
In addition to the DNA evidence, Raley said Bradley fought to keep under wraps a sheriff's department interview with Morton's mother-in-law conducted days after the 1986 murder in which she said the couple's young son had witnessed the crime. She said her grandson, 3 years old at the time, told her that a man who was "not Daddy" killed his mother. Raley also questioned whether the trial judge at the time had ever seen the document.
If the defense in this case was "grasping at straws," as Mr. Bradley derisively told the media all these years, they sure latched onto a strong one. I have a hard time imagining the courts will uphold Mr. Morton's conviction in the face of a conclusive DNA match to someone else.
On one point, Bradley was right: "Innocence has proven to trump most anything." But his conclusion from that observation was downright perverse. That means innocence claims, where they credibly exist, should be vigorously and rapidly pursued, not that evidence should be destroyed in order to reduce appellate opportunities and to make sure that actual innocence can never be established. The Michael Mortons of the world deserve better. Indeed, all of us do.