The man in the white shirt is Michael Morton.
Morton was arrested and charged with beating his wife to death in 1986. He was convicted in 1987 and sentenced to life in prison, but was exonerated after DNA evidence proved that he was innocent. Pro bono civil attorney John Raley of Houston, Texas, together with Nina Morrison of the New York based Innocence Project filed Morton’s motion for DNA testing in February 2005. Raley and Morrison relentlessly sought a court order for DNA testing in state and federal courts until the testing was finally achieved in June, 2011. Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley “tenaciously fought” DNA testing for six years before a judge finally ordered the tests. Morton was freed October 4, 2011 after DNA tests linked another man, Mark Alan Norwood, to Christine Morton’s murder. Norwood, a Bastrop dishwasher who lived in Austin in the mid-1980s, was charged and, on March 27, 2013, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the 1986 murder of Christine Morton. He also is a suspect in the 1988 murder of Debra Baker in her Austin home. Both women were beaten to death in their beds. On November 16, 2011, Morton’s original prosecutor, Ken Anderson, told reporters: “I want to formally apologize for the system’s failure to Mr. Morton. In hindsight, the verdict was wrong.” Baker’s daughter said she was unmoved by Anderson’s apology and held him partially responsible for her mother’s death because he and investigators allowed a killer to escape detection by focusing so intently on Morton. “It’s harder for me to hear him not holding himself accountable. He’s not taking responsibility,” she said.
Morton was formally acquitted by Bexar County District Judge Sid Harle on December 19, 2011. On the same day, Morton’s attorneys (including Raley, Morrison, Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project, and Gerald Goldstein and Cynthia Orr of San Antonio) asked Harle to order a “court of inquiry” into the actions of Anderson, who is now a district judge in Williamson County. A court of inquiry is a special court that investigates allegations of misconduct by elected officials in Texas. Morton has accused Anderson of failing to provide defense lawyers with exculpatory evidence indicating that another man might have killed Morton’s wife, including information that his 3-year-old son witnessed the murder and said his dad was not home at the time. Morton’s attorneys discovered this evidence while preparing a final appeal, and were able to get Anderson and others involved in the investigation deposed under oath. On February 20, 2012; Harle asked the Texas Supreme Court to convene a court of inquiry, finding that there was evidence to support Morton’s contention that Anderson had tampered with evidence and should have been held in contempt of court for not complying with the trial judge’s order to let him review all possible exculpatory evidence. The court of inquiry began on February 4, 2013. If it finds that there is reason to believe Anderson broke the law, Anderson could potentially face charges that carry up to 10 years in prison. On April 19, 2013, the court of inquiry ordered Anderson to be arrested, saying “This court cannot think of a more intentionally harmful act than a prosecutor’s conscious choice to hide mitigating evidence so as to create an uneven playing field for a defendant facing a murder charge and a life sentence.”
If there is an argument against an adversarial justice system, then this is it. The prosecution’s insistence on gaining and protecting their conviction against the accused may have cost Debra Baker her life, and certainly cost Michael Morton a quarter century of his.