Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Pam Colloff on Michael Morton: The GFB Interview

Pam Colloff, Texas Monthly
Texas Monthly's Pam Colloff recently authored a massive, two-part, must-read story (see here and here) on Michael Morton' dramatic DNA exoneration, presaging the court of inquiry in February alleging prosecutor misconduct by former Williamson County DA and current District Judge Ken Anderson. In the past, Colloff covered Anthony Graves' false conviction (see here and here) as well as Hannah Overton's pending habeas petition.

Grits sat down with Pam yesterday to discuss the Morton case and other innocence-related issues in an interview that lasted just more than half an hour. Though I've read her work for years, this was our first-ever opportunity to visit face to face. By the time it was over, I wished we'd had another hour to talk about the Morton case and related questions, particularly some of the issues surrounding the role of the media touched on toward the end of our colloquy. You can listen to the conversation here (mp3) and I've also uploaded a transcript, edited slightly for grammar and clarity. Enjoy.


steve said...

How do I email a personal message? You might be surprised how you are providing knowledge on a wide scale...
S Kennedy

steve said...

send me an

Anonymous said...

Nicely done

ColeenSanLeon said...

Great job! Very interesting conversation. I agree with you I surely could have listened to another hour.... that was really good.

I have a semi-related question. How long is the prosecution (court?) required to maintain trial evidence and all the associated files?

In my son's case, the property was released to me after he served his complete sentence (2 years). But on these cases where the sentence is 30, 40 years or longer how long do they keep it? If they get paroled does it affect the date?

Anonymous said...

Very interesting interview and information -

Is there any weight at all given at all to the consequences paid by the other murder victim AFTER the Morton murder that may have been prevented if the trial evidence and information had been disclosed and maybe the real killer had been caught? Sometimes I do not think people realize that not only is this situation a tragedy for the Mortons but also for others years down the line who suffered the same loss and murder. There is a real possibility that that murderer could have been caught prior to a second murder (could there be more?)

Brad Walters said...

Mr. Morton and so many others had their lives turned inside out by DA's and law enforcement concerned for their careers made by seeking convictions, breaking the law, and disregarding the duty to seek justice. The article should be required reading for every prosecutor and police officer in every court house and police station in the country.

Anonymous said...

That was an ridiculous interview. Does Pam even try to understand the actual events in the case? She gives a free pass to Bill Allison when he says that all the information in the case wasn't given to him in his affidavit. Bill originally wrote his own affidavit that said he knew even less then the one that Nina wrote for him several drafts later. But I suppose he has to be telling the truth and no one should question that. Problem is he and his other counsel only asked for the statements Micheal made on the first day and that was what Anderson gave to the judge. That is extremely clear when reading the pre trial transcript. The original defense also had all the sheriffs files under subpoena which should have stood out to Pam or any other competent reporter. In this case, as is talked about in the interview, is the media doesn't care that Morton told a reporter in '87 that his son told him and his therapist that he had seen the murder. They have a story to write and an agenda to get across. I'll let you decide what that is. In my opinion Bill Allison, Berry and Nina have lied and only used part of the real evidence to twist this case the way they needed it. Go watch Morton lie to everyone in a PBS interview about the check. Go read the interview in the Hill County News in '87 after his trial and see what Morton said his son told him. Go read the pre trial transcript where Anderson brings up the child in the case and was moving to determine if he was going to take the stand when the defense made a joke about prepping him for days then said they had no intention of putting a 3 year old on the stand. The purse and credit card information will come out in the Court of Inquiry. Apparently, it and the CC were never stolen. Check the evidence list at the WCSO for more omissions that the Berry and Nina made. Micheal filed a missing property report on the purse and that was it. He never cancelled the cards or ever stopped the cards and paid at least two bills in the following months. Sounds like a stolen card to me. The freedom of information act isn't hard to use (how I found this out). The IP have made it very clear that they intend on bringing down a sitting judge. I see it as greed and power for their cause of ending the death penalty (something that wasn't asked for in this trial).

Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:35, when someone claims to have so much detail but won't speak in specifics nor sign their name to their comments, I'm always suspicious of their own agenda and what information THEY'RE leaving out. Why don't you enlighten us on both? And instead of telling us to go "check" here and "read" there, why don't you just quote to us what we'd find, since you claim to already know? In any event, Anderson had an obligation to turn over Brady material whether Alison specifically asked for it or not.

As you acknowledge, this case isn't even a capital case, so your conspiracy theory about abolishing the death penalty doesn't remotely make sense.

Are you one of Anderson's lawyers or part of his legal team? If so, you'll get your chance to make your case publicly when all this goes to court. I've not delved into the weeds on this case to the extent of reading transcripts, etc., but if all you say is true Anderson has little to fear from Michael Morton bringing him down. OTOH, if as I suspect, you're engaging in hard spin that downplays or misrepresents Anderson's culpability, we'll soon find that out, too.

Anonymous said...


No reporter has touched on the obvious and that is beyond troubling to be me. I know Bill Allison. I don't think he is very moral person and I feel that his lies about events 25 years ago, John Bradly forfeiting a real fact finding investigation and turning police work over to a private organization run by the likes of Berry Scheck are alarming. Bill and Berry have an agenda to make prosecutors look as bad as he can. And sadly these men have done just that. OK, so here are your links and quotes:

1) The Don Wood report issue in pretrial can be read here. In the IP report to counrt they do not include the court transcripts. In Anderson's response starting on page 4 he includes the motion to suppress statements (bottom of page 7) Michael made the day of the murder and all of the subsequent court dialog. Bill Allison asked for specific documents to be turned over to the court (page 10) and he got exactly that. Now 25 years later he claims something different from what the record shows.

2) From the RR Leader:

"The stuff about my son witnessing my wife's murder, I didn't even [learn about] that until this year," Morton said Monday.

That statement, however, contradicts what Morton reportedly told a Hill Country News reporter shortly after his 1987 conviction.

According to a Feb. 26, 1987 story in that newspaper Morton told a reporter: "My son actually saw the murderer. He told me, my mother and a therapist, but that couldn't be admitted as evidence due to hearsay. There was also a bloody bandana found behind my house, but because my brother-in-law picked it up and destroyed the chain of evidence it wasn't allowed."

Sounds to me like he and his lawyers knew this.

In court here is what actually occurred when Anderson brought up the issue with the child:

3) Morton goes on PBS and glosses over the check (for obvious reasons) and says "all of that is true". watch 15:44 - 18:45.

Countless news articles used this check and credit card as proof the real killer had stolen and used the above after her death. Since the check was admitted to the AG of Texas as being signed by Michael "upon further inspection" (see forced to tell the truth in a murder investigation) it was determined to not be evidence at all and no one cared. How convenient.

The credit card info will come out soon enough. BTW, Michael never canceled the card and presumably was paying the bill following the alleged fraud. Draw your own conclusions.

4) I don't have a scanner to upload the evidence list. But once again John Bradley fucked up and didn't do his job. This should have never been an issue. Only in a circus court, ring mastered by Berry and his gang of misfit lawyers and a questionable Judge (Harle), would this ever occur. It will come out in February.

5) The subpoena of the Williamson County Sheriffs files are also another item I cannot upload at the moment. Just know, by doing so, the Bill's had total access to ALL the files and apparently never acted on them. 25 years later they are covering their asses.

"As you acknowledge, this case isn't even a capital case, so your conspiracy theory about abolishing the death penalty doesn't remotely make sense."

^ The one of the main objectives of the Innocence Project is to abolish the death penalty. That was my only point. Scheck uses media to outrage people so they donate money to his cause. I think there has been enough upset folks that a few of them donated some money.

No spin, just recorded facts. Refreshing isn't it? I assume you have never heard any of this and will tear it down somehow. I just wanted you to know what I know. Sadly Pam couldn't be bothered to write about any of these interesting facts in a two piece article.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

As I said, 9:14, I've never delved into the weeds on the Morton case, but the court of inquiry, I'm sure, will reach the details of who knew what, when. However, even in some of the quotes you provide one can see gaps in the competing claims that would have to be resolved before I agreed with your conclusions.

Even so, to be clear, in nearly all innocence cases one of the key causal factors is ineffective assistance of counsel, so if that occurred here, too, I wouldn't be the least surprised. That's pretty much par for the course.

OTOH, that wouldn't change the fact that Anderson had Brady obligations regardless of what Allison asked for and he misrepresented even to John Bradley what information he'd turned over to the judge. (See from the Texas Tribune account: “'I fully expected that that sealed file would contradict some pretty strong accusations,' Bradley said. 'It didn’t.'”) Moreover, the fact that Morton's team knew of the bloody bandana, etc., doesn't mitigate the fact that the Williamson DA fought testing the evidence until 2011. (Mark Norwood says "thanks," btw.)

Finally, you say "no spin, just recorded facts" right after announcing that "one of the main objectives of the Innocence Project is to abolish the death penalty." Since the latter statement is factually false, it's hard to take seriously the "no spin" claim. Scheck is personally an abolitionist, but the IP of Texas, for example, is agnostic on the issue. And even IPNY's mission statement fails to call for death penalty abolition, instead stating the group is dedicated "to free[ing] the staggering numbers of innocent people who remain incarcerated and to bring substantive reform to the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment." Because the death penalty is popular in Texas, I can understand why Anderson and his backers want to pretend the Morton case is part of an abolitionist agenda (since you failed to answer the direct question, I assume you're part of his legal team). Problem is, it's simply not true.

So you've clearly got your own agenda in how you're framing this. At the court of inquiry - where whoever presents these arguments will have to put their name on them and publicly stand behind them - we'll find out whether the factbites you've cited are legitimate defenses or diversionary tactics. I'm looking forward to it.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Grits, the covert commenter that carpet bombed the GFB comment section with a pre-court of inquiry opening argument said - ...Berry have an agenda to make prosecutors look as bad as he can.

WTF?, if he / she closed with - Criminals are like a box of chocolates' I'd friggin puked. If this goofy assertion were true, Mr. Scheck, Mr. Blackburn & others would've jumped all over the chance to add the king of nolo contendere (Mr. Casey J. O'Brien aka: jigmeister), Mrs. Stephanie Martin and about 25 other rogue Texas ADA's and their bosses to the list.

Sadly, the criminals that didn't make the cut, will never be made to look bad by them due to the types of evidence tied to their criminal activities while seeking conviction over justice. Thanks.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Hey Grits, you've got the interview down to an art and it simply has folks wanting more, so I'm calling for a monthly GFB Interview segment consideration vote-off. Since your vote is the one that counts, thanks for thinking about it just the same.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who would defend criminals like Anderson and Bradley is obviously a pro-criminal liberal communist pinko scumbag. (Sarcasm)

Anonymous said...

It's too bad that so called hero Sheriff Boutwell didn't live long enough to be held accountable as well.