We know from experience that certain things are going to happen when an exonerated inmate walks out of prison. There will be tears. There will be hugs. There will be joy. There will be anger. There will be talk of tonight’s dinner. There will be talk of the future. There will be talk of how the system made a terrible mistake.
One thing there won’t be talk of: Why was this poor guy wrongly convicted in the first place? We almost never find out exactly why innocent people are wrongly convicted of terrible crimes. Who made the mistake that sent him to prison? Worse still, who made the conscious choice to prosecute him when it was clear he didn’t commit the crime? These questions remain unanswered partly because the case happened long ago but also because usually nobody in authority makes us try to figure them out. So, after the innocent man is freed, we cheer him and wish him well, but that’s all we can do. We accept his incarceration as the cost of doing business in the criminal justice system–and we move on.
This is apparently not going to happen in the Michael Morton case.
On Friday, State District Judge Sid Harle found probable cause to believe that former Williamson County DA Ken Anderson “committed serious misconduct” when he successfully prosecuted Morton (pictured above), an innocent man, for the murder of his wife Christine in 1987. Morton spent 25 years in prison for murder but was exonerated four months ago—and another man has been charged with the crime. Now Harle is asking state supreme court chief justice Wallace Jefferson to decide whether to hold a special court of inquiry to look into the matter—to see whether Anderson tampered with or fabricated physical evidence, among other things. If Jefferson decides we need to find out exactly what happened and why, he’ll appoint a new judge to oversee the proceedings.