Monday, March 26, 2012

60 Minutes interviews Michael Morton

"It's not every day that a convicted murderer clears his name and then returns to court to argue that his prosecutor should be prosecuted," correspondent Lara Logan said at the opening of 60 Minutes' segment last night featuring Michael Morton's first media interview since his exoneration. See the clip (there's a ad at the beginning of each):

And here's an additional online discussion from the 60 Minutes reporter and producers:

The account of Morton's relationship with his son is one of the most heartbreaking you'll ever encounter, like some epic, tragic Russia novel with a surprise, wholly Americanized happy ending - like a "present from heaven," as Morton himself put it. Morton's is an amazing tale. Once again, congrats to him and everyone involved over the years in fighting the Williamson County DA's office to free him.

RELATED: Reacting to the story, Wilco Watchdog says that "Ken Anderson put Morton in prison and John Bradley kept him there." Bradley wasn't mentioned in the 60 Minutes piece, but there's little doubt the issue looms large over his re-election campaign, for the reasons articulated by the Watchdog, and this national press coverage won't help matters. In a sense, it may benefit Bradley that the redistricting battle forced the state to push back its primaries, or Williamson County voters would be going to the polls next week with the 60 Minutes story fresh in their minds. OTOH, it's also possible the longer timeline will give Bradley's opponent a chance to make the associations among voters between Bradley and the Morton case that 60 Minutes left out. We won't know until May how this may impact the Williamson DA's race, but the incumbent must be worried.

ALSO: In the second clip embedded above, the producer said they interviewed Michael Morton for nearly three hours in preparation for this story, with just a few minutes broadcast during this segment. This was Morton's first media interview since his release last fall, so I hope CBS goes ahead and puts more of the extended interview online. That's historic material.

AND MORE: Texas Monthly's Paul Burka has a bloggerly assessment of the Williamson County DA's race in the wake of 60 Minutes' coverage.


Les Brown said...

Not trying to start something Scott, but the story said Morton recieved $2 million from the state for its "mistake." How much of the $2 million did the Innocence team of lawyers get?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I'm pretty sure none, Les. The only time I know of that "innocence lawyers" received part of anybody's compensation were in a handful of cases where exonerees chose NOT to take the statutory compensation and filed federal civil right suits instead, as is their right. If those fellows had filed for straight compensation with the Comptroller instead of suing, like Morton did, they'd have also owed no attorneys fees.

Also, it's worth mentioning, the attorneys involved in that episode were recently all cleared of misconduct charges, a fact which was reported as a muted epilogue, if at all, compared to the original allegations that were trumpeted far and wide.

Lee said...

2 million is a mere drop in the bucket, insignificant pittance when compared to the injustice that Michael Morton suffered. Were it me, I would have sued the state for everything they were worth and real justice would have ensured that it all came from Ken Anderson's pocket.

Scott, I can't even begin to imagine how Mr. Morton is bearing this and I know for a fact that were I in his shoes, I would want revenge. Ken anderson is a scum piece of garbage and though I do not know Mr. Morton personally, Mr anderson had not only raped Mr. Morton but he has deprived everyone else as well. This is just sick.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Lee writes, "I know for a fact that were I in his shoes, I would want revenge"

You might be surprised. This is something Jeff Blackburn first pointed out to me, and I've witnessed it myself many times since. Among exonerees who served long sentences, most who make it past the 10-15 year range - if only for their own mental wellbeing - eventually hit an almost zen stage where they've moved beyond anger or revenge fantasies and develop a more profound understanding of what's really important.

There are some exonerees who leave prison angry, but surprisingly in my experience not the majority, and I could name many off the top of my head whose capacity for forgiveness has proved as awe-inspiring as Morton's. (I see James Woodard as almost a Buddha figure.) In the interview, Morton describes how after he gave up his anger he felt like he lost 25 pounds. I can't honestly say I'd replicate that mentality under the same circumstances, but I admire it.

Anonymous said...

It's disappointing the segment did not also focus on John Bradley's fight to suppress DNA evidence. John Bradley is just as much to blame as Ken Anderson. Thanks to him, 480,000 of the tax dollars paid to Mr. Morton and 6 years of Morton's life is on Bradley's back.

The Fishing Physicist said...

Thanks Scott for post the 60 minutes story!

SCOTUS blew it by affirming prosecutoial immunity. A total outrage.

Lee said...

Correct Scott, Forgiveness is much easier to adminre and speculate that it is to practice.

Phillip Baker said...

Through surreal twists of fate, I do know Mike Morton personally, and I can say without hesitation that everyone can learn from this man. The calm and kindness this man shows challenges me to do better in my own life. I had the privilege of watching 60 Minutes with Mike last Sunday and will treasure the experience all the rest of my life.

But both our families seem in agreement that the proper path forward needs to be reform, not revenge. We Texans have gloried in our "tough on crime" justice system as long as I can remember, all the while willfully ignoring its glaring faults and the dire human costs. Anderson is certainly not the only DA to abuse power. This happens all the time all over this state every day of the week. It starts with the ubiquitous practice of overcharging- you hit some guy with charges so out of line with reality, but which carry heavy sentences. Then you dangle a plea before the guy. That man knows that IF he takes his chance in court - often with an appointed attorney who is and remains uninvolved, uncaring , resentful of getting only minor compensation- and loses, that prosecutor WILL get the heaviest punishment handed out. It's a warning to others who are watching. How many thousands of people have swallowed integrity and pled out to something they did not do, for fear of being hit with the draconian alternative? This again violates the prosecutors' sworn oath to seek justice, not convictions.

Speaking for myself only, I fully intend to be walking the corridors of the Capitol next session, pushing for changes in our justice system, including far stricter standards for prosecutor conduct.

Phillip Baker said...

Another short thought- Grits, you mentioned the "almost Buddha-like" state of many exonerees. I was at the party after that exoneration hearing and believe there were several bodhisattvas there. That Buddhist term is for beings who are "wisdom-beings", "heroic-minded beings","enlightenment being". Barry Scheck, Nina MOrrison, John Raley- and his wife- and others involved are, to this Buddhist, truly bodhisattvas. It is reassuring to know that in this cynical, fractious, demoralized society of ours, there remain true bodhisattvas among us. These are all inspirations to us all.

Herb Tarlek said...

Man, 2 million is peanuts. That's a friggin joke. He should have gotten 100 Million or more. I feel so bad for this guy. I wonder if the guy who did kill his wife got ass-thumped by Michaels large connection with lifers in Texas Jails?

Anonymous said...

I hope he got some financial compensation for time spent. Does anyone know?