LUBBOCK, Tex. — In the back of the Cotton Exchange building in Lubbock’s dusty downtown, the Innocence Project of Texas keeps more than 10,000 files from state prisoners in dozens of blue, purple, and white plastic boxes.
Much has happened since we published “Why Was This Prosecutor Never Punished?” on December 18, which questioned why Charles Sebesta—the ex-Burleson County DA responsible for sending Anthony Graves to death row—had never been disciplined by the State Bar of Texas. Specifically, I asked why the state bar had not taken action against Sebesta after the U.S.
Michael Morton approached the witness box. It was a bright, clear morning in March, and a few dozen family members, journalists, and curious onlookers had gathered at the Tom Green County courthouse, in San Angelo, a grand, columned monument to justice built in 1928 at the height of an oil boom. Sunlight spilled into the courtroom, which had been meticulously restored to its original splendor, complete with a decorative relief on the ceiling of an enormous sunflower. Michael took his seat, his posture ramrod-straight.
On Thursday, the third day of testimony in the capital murder trial of Mark Norwood, the jury finally heard from the enigmatic figure who has been referenced a number of times this week by attorneys for both the state and the defense. Louis Homer Wann Jr—or “Sonny,” as he told special prosecutor Lisa Tanner to call him—did not actually appear in person; a videotaped deposition, which was recorded last fall, was played instead.
In “Hannah and Andrew,” executive editor Pamela Colloff examines the case of Hannah Overton, a Corpus Christi homemaker and mother of five who was convicted of murdering a four-year-old boy whom she and her husband were in the process of adopting.
On August 11, 2004, readers of the Mineola Monitor, a weekly newspaper that serves much of Wood County, in East Texas, sat down to a familiar front page. “Area schools begin ’04 year next week,” one headline announced; “28th Annual Hay Show samples to be collected,” declared another. A photograph showed locals eating hot dogs at the Humble Baptist Church. “They braved the heat to enjoy music and good old-fashioned neighborly conversation,” read the caption.
IT’S TRUE. James Waller really didn’t do it. Six months ago DNA evidence proved what the convicted rapist had been saying for 24 years, and he became the twelfth man from Dallas County to be cleared by DNA since the state began allowing post-conviction testing in 2001—the most exonerations of any U.S. county.