Former DA in Texas Given 10 days in Jail for Withholding Evidence that Led Wrong Man to Serve 25 Years for Wife’s Murder
On August 13, 1986 Michael Morton went to work one day after his birthday, having left a note to his wife saying he loved her but he was disappointed that she did not have sex with him that evening. The following day when he got home he found her corpse with a wicker basket and suitcase on top of her. She had been bludgeoned to death. A bloody bandana was located by investigators about 100 yards from the house. Although their three year-old son saw the murder and had told the victim’s mother that he saw the “monster” who killed her, this information was never brought forward at trial.
The Brady Rule
Ken Anderson, the prosecutor and eventual judge in Williamson County where this took place, never called the lead detective to testify, even in the face of a direct request from the defense to the judge that any exculpatory evidence be presented. Under the Supreme Court’s Brady rule, based on their 1963 case of Brady v. Maryland, prosecutors are required to turn over all exculpatory evidence – that evidence which tends to show the defendant is innocent – to defense counsel. In Brady, the court found that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment demanded such disclosure before trial. Without the testimony of the detective, the son’s statement was never made known, and Morton was found guilty and served 25 years of his life sentence.
Justice served 25 years later
Eventually in 2011, new counsel for Morton succeeded in getting a DNA test of the blood found on the bandana. The test showed it was not the blood of Morton but actually another man who subsequently murdered another woman in Texas. The victim’s blood was also identified as being on the bandana. The findings caused the trial judge to reopen the case. During this time, a Freedom of Information Act request to see the district attorney’s entire file revealed the statement from the young boy that another man had killed her.
As a result, the original prosecutor was charged with and pled guilty to criminal contempt, spent 10 days in jail and performed 500 hours of community service. It is the first known case of a prosecutor going to jail for improperly prosecuting a defendant who was convicted.
The Law Offices of Richard Block has been serving Arizona clients in criminal defense cases for nearly 40 years. We are completely knowledgeable about rules of evidence and will fight hard for your rights and your freedom. Call us for a free initial consultation.