Sunday, November 06, 2011

CYA meetings helped Morton prosecutors, investigator prep for critical depositions

The plot has certainly thickened in the Michael Morton DNA exoneration out of Williamson County, with more evidence arising that prosecutors withheld evidence at the original trial and misrepresented forensic testimony by the medical examiner in their closing arguments. Further, it appears that all the key players convened last month at least twice in the wake of Morton's release to get their stories straight before they were deposed by Morton's attorneys.

According to the sworn deposition of former sergeant and Williamson County Sheriff's Office special investigator Don Wood, reports the blog Wilco Watchdog,  "There were two meetings convened by District Attorney John Bradley in October of 2011, during the time when Morton was being released from prison, apparently for the purpose of figuring out what happened regarding the evidence in preparation for any subsequent investigation. Wood attended both meetings, and John Bradley, Ken Anderson, and Mike Davis' attorney were present at the second meeting." Questions the Watchdog:
With impending depositions looming for Wood, Davis and Anderson, why would John Bradley call a meeting to get all the key players together around a table covered with documents if not to try to “refresh” everyone's memories around a common theme?  And who really called the meeting?  Did Bradley call it at the behest of Anderson or Davis?  And if Bradley truly was “investigating” the matter as he publicly proclaimed, why would he do it in such a way that he met with everybody at the same time in order to resolve conflicts in their memories? Why not interrogate people individually in order to ferret out inconsistencies and get to the real truth, the way a true and objective investigator would do it? ...
The Rosetta Stone which unlocks the real purpose within that second meeting involving Bradley, Wood, Anderson, Jernigan and Davis' attorney is really nothing more than common sense.  Why coordinate stories in a round-table discussion which was anything other than a real investigation?  If it wasn't an investigation, was it simply a document-organizing and coaching session?  The onus now falls squarely on Bradley to explain why he handled his “investigation” in this venue of communal cooperation and memory restoration.

The more serious issue to be addressed regarding this second meeting involves the known certainty that oncoming depositions would occur, and whether or not this synchronization of memories amounted to witness tampering.
Those are the exact the right questions to be asking. The meetings sound a lot more like CYA sessions than part of any "investigation." The Watchdog culled additional evidence from Wood's deposition indicating that prosecutors manipulated their trial strategy to avoid having to disclose exculpatory evidence in Wood's files:
Wood says he didn't find out he wasn't going to testify at the trial until two hours before it was scheduled to start and that Sheriff Jim Boutwell was to testify in his place. Wood said he reviewed with Boutwell all the evidence he had provided in the case. In the deposition, a major point is made regarding the fact that if Woods had testified, all of the documents he had generated would have to be turned over to the defense.

Three key pieces of evidence—the transcript of the recording about three-year-old Eric Morton's witness account of the murder, the message about the use of Christine Morton's credit card for a $1,000 purchase in San Antonio after her death, and the report of the green van parked behind the murder scene—were known to Wood, who says that the documentation regarding all of those items would have been entered into the case file in the records of the sheriff's department.
Extraordinary. To be clear, Wood himself didn't say he didn't testify to avoid turning over his notes. Skimming his testimony, Wood, who is 72, claimed to remember virtually nothing about the case, nor the two meetings with the DA's office last month. Frankly I'm amazed Wood could remember his route home from the deposition if his memory is really as bad as he portrayed. But that's unsurprising given the prep meetings with the DA's office. Unless you're willing to divulge overt misconduct in the case, "I don't remember" is about the only safe answer to many of the questions being asked. I bet Judge Anderson's and Mr. Davis' memories turn out to be similarly impaired.

Equally interesting was testimony from former Travis County medical examiner Robert Bayardo, who in the past has said he never took notes during autopsies for fear that defense counsel might subpoena them. Bayardo said he'd been "very much disturbed" when, during closing arguments, Ken Anderson argued that medical science firmly established Christine Morton's time of death as before Mr. Morton went to work that day. Adds the Watchdog, "This piece of now-discredited evidence was one of the most significant factors contributing to the jury's guilty verdict for Michael Morton." Bayardo "very much" agreed that "statements by the prosecutor on closing argument that contradict your very express testimony are not in any way a reasonable inference that can be made from [his] testimony."

On one hand, it's a bit hard to take testimony from either man seriously. Bayardo clearly wasn't concerned enough at the time to speak up about prosecutors' false inferences from his testimony, but now we're supposed to believe he was "very much" alarmed when it happened. Similarly, Mr. Wood could identify no medical reason his memory might be so shoddy, and could remember specific details about a recent vacation in Missouri, but claimed to remember almost nothing about the case or the two meetings with the DA's office last month. Frankly I don't buy it. Even so, between his testimony and Bayardo's a clearer picture is emerging of exactly how Michael Morton's false conviction occurred. I can't wait to see Anderson and Davis' deposition transcripts, which should shed much more light on key questions only hinted at by these two witnesses.



FaithNoMore said...

Evidence of a cover-up is always the best way to show guilt. It always amazes me to see how far officials will go to avoid admitting making a mistake. It would've been so easy to allow the DNA to be tested many years ago and then say, "Sorry, in 99% of the cases, it's the spouse--so we apologize to Mr. Morton and give him his money for being wrongly incarcerated."
Meeting with all the witnesses at the same time is a good way to jog everyone's memories---but that's not how law enforcement agencies perform an investigation.
In this situation, it's proven to be par for the course up in Wilco--until there's an independent investigation done by an outside agency...say by a federal grand jury, it's going to end up in plenty of articles for Grits and Wilco Watchdog.

Anonymous said...

Bradley should be in the LEAST held in contempt for holding those meetings. He intentionally obstructed a court ordred inquiry.

Kevin Stouwie said...

Clever trial trick not putting the main investigator on the witness stand. However, I believe the duty to turn over exculpatory evidence is not dependent upon who takes the stand.

Unfortunately, when getting convictions is seen as "winning", the sworn oath of prosecutors to seek the truth sort of gets thrown out the window.

Anonymous said...

One question for ya'll more intelligent than I... Why don't the feds step in and take out the trash here? Is it possible or legal for the FBI/federal courts to investigate these cases of blatant misconduct? The feds were involved sorting out Tulia, right?

rodsmith said...

well 3:38 considering the number of FEDERAL cases tossed over the same type of criminal stupidity i'm sure they don't want to sture up any muddy waters where the boys might come back with their own hidden evidence in other cases....maybe even some that have not yet been revealed.

rodsmith said...

as for this statement!

"Equally interesting was testimony from former Travis County medical examiner Robert Bayardo, who in the past has said he never took notes during autopsies for fear that defense counsel might subpoena them."

If he was stupid enough to put them on record...just why in the hell is he still a medical examiner! That would seem to be an automatic removal offence!

BarkGrowlBite said...

The real problem is that attorneys are less interested in justice than in winning. Whether it's a civil or criminal trial, winning is everything!

dfisher said...


Travis Co. Chief Medical Examiner Roberto Bayardo was forced to retire in 2006. On February 16th of that year I went before the Travis Co. Commissioners Court to disclose Bayardo falsified his credentials to obtain the position in 1978.

To fully understand the magnitude of Bayardo's fraud, you can play the Commissioners court video tape of the disclosures at:

Copy and paste the above web address into your search engine. When the commissioners court web-page opens, scroll down to the bottom of the page where you will find, second from the bottom, this caption.


THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2006, 1:30 P.M."

Now click on Item # 1, "Hear the discussion." to load and play the video on, "ISSUES ON THE MEDICAL EXAMINERS OFFICE."

Now this a long video so advance the tape by using the slide bar on the video player. You will find my address in the last 10% of the Tape.

I think what you will learn will absolutely floor you and to cause you even more grief, the Austin American Statesman reporter Chuck Lindell covered the session, but hid what made the Michael Morton scandall possible.

rodsmith said...

i doubt it dfisher...i've said for years if someone could get their hands on the records buried under the NSA bulding in washington DC. From where the system monitors ALL phone calls in the united states. we would be shooting MOST of our politicains.

dfisher said...


This statement you cited,

"Equally interesting was testimony from former Travis County medical examiner Robert Bayardo, who in the past has said he never took notes during autopsies for fear that defense counsel might subpoena them."

came from my record. I worked with the Fort Worth Star-telegram reporter for almost two years to provide virtually all the information they used in their Medical Examiner series.

Even though Bayardo claimed he never took autopsy note, that fact is he did take notes in some cases. And in two of those case the notes called into question the execution of one defendant and another who is still on death row.

Anonymous said...

Had some indirect dealings with Mike Davis- still relies more on being an arrogant bully than actually looking at the facts. Can not believe he still has a license to practice law.