Twenty-six years ago this month, Michael Morton sat inside a Williamson County courtroom, accused of murdering his wife, Christine, while then-D.A. Ken Anderson argued passionately before the jury that the Austin grocery store manager should be convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Yesterday, the roles were reversed. This time, it was Anderson—now a state district judge—who sat at the defense table.
This week, the next chapter of one of Texas’s most unsettling murder cases will be written. As I chronicled in last year’s two-part article “The Innocent Man,” Michael Morton was wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison after his wife, Christine, was bludgeoned to death in their Williamson County home in 1986. Michael, an Austin grocery store manager, always insisted he was innocent.
Lt. Regina Smith, who moonlights as the rapper 'Lucille Baller,' was put on administrative leave Wednesday. Department officials are conducting an investigation sparked by a lyric in one of Smith's songs about shooting people that mess with her, according to WFAA-TV Dallas.
The number of Texas prisoners cleared by DNA evidence grew Monday, after the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office announced that recently tested DNA evidence proves that a Fort Worth man who spent 23 years in prison for rape could not have committed the crime.
Texas Board of Pardons and Parole granted parole to a full 31 percent of inmates up for review last year, continuing a ten-year trend that was applauded by state legislators and criminal justice groups. (In 2003, 27 percent of inmates up for review were granted parole.)
As the state of Texas endures another sweltering summer, so do its 160,000 prisoners.
Two lawsuits over sweltering conditions in Texas's prisons are now working their way through the federal courts.
A month after the conclusion of the dramatic, six-day evidentiary hearing held in the capital murder case of Hannah Overton, state district judge Jose Longoria has issued his recommendations to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. In a fourteen-page opinion issued late in the day on Thursday, Longoria stated that he saw no new evidence that would have altered the outcome of Hannah’s trial.
One of Texas’s most high-profile district attorneys, Williamson County D.A. John Bradley, faced a resounding defeat last night in the Republican primary—a race that became a referendum on his handling of the Michael Morton case. Morton, as you may recall, was exonerated last year after serving nearly 25 years behind bars for the murder of his wife, a crime that DNA testing revealed he did not commit. Bradley had opposed DNA testing in the case, and spent no less than six years trying to prevent it from going forward.
Just how fallible are we? How badly do we mess up when doing something as fundamentally human as using our eyes, words, and memories?
Very, very badly. Especially when we’re under stress, when we’ve witnessed something terrible like a violent crime, and when the police are hanging on our every word—and maybe, just maybe, pushing us to finger a suspect.