Texas Shame …Morton’s Honor
By Randy N
Prelude…in some places alleged should be inserted….feel free to do that if you wish.
He bashed her head in with some sort of wooden club…perhaps a baseball bat. Blood was spattered on the walls and the ceiling. Then he did something odd…as if killing the mother of your 3 year old child was not strange enough…he now piled items on top of the body of his wife…a suitcase, a clothes hamper. This is a strange murderer indeed.
And so, Michael Morton was locked away for 25 years for killing his wife as his 3 year old son watched the crime being committed. Problem is Mr. Morton’s son told his grandmother that a “a monster with a big moustache killed mommy.” Was daddy there ? No, the three year old told his grandmother.
And Morton’s MIL told the sheriff who in turn told the district attorney. Yet, somehow both these “protectors of justice” failed to do their sworn duty. But that is not the only evidence these two Texas lawmen failed to provide to the defense of Mr. Morton. A neighbor reported a suspicious van near the crime scene and this same neighbor described a man going into the woods behind the Morton home…crucial details that should have led investigators towards the real killer…a killer who we later will come to find out is a repeat offender. A killer who murders another innocent young woman a few years later. And this victim has odd items placed on top of her dead body as well. Also there is another unsolved murder of a woman who lived 1 mile from the Morton home.
But this killer will go free for 25 years because two lazy lawmen decided to “solve” the case by withholding key evidence… this is illegal at best and at worst should have told them both that Mr. Morton was probably not the killer and that they needed to redouble their efforts at finding a brutal killer…a monster was still on the loose… but no one raised that alarm. And since that never happened… the monster killer took at least one other life that we know of…how many other unsolved Texas murders is this man guilty of? We will never know that answer!
What is clear is that Sheriff Jim Boutwell and DA Ken Anderson clearly violated the law. At issue in this case was Brady material. Brady material is any exculpatory material and evidence in a case. It must be turned over to the defense according to the landmark Supreme Court decision from 1963 called Brady v Maryland.
Twenty-five years too late we come to learn that then DA Ken Anderson (now Judge Ken Anderson) broke this law. He ignored …no in fact he willfully withheld pertinent material and statements and he and Sheriff Boutwell conspired to assure this Brady material would never reach the defense. In fact, due to Mr. Anderson’s protege John Bradley who is the current DA, Michael Morton was forced to stay an extra 8 years in prison because of Bradley’s efforts to block DNA testing and his constant appeals to deny access to the case files…even 25 years later. One wonders for what logical reason these files might be withheld from the defense? And now that we finally see these files we can begin to piece together what happened and why these lawmen failed to do their duty…how these men sworn to uphold the law did in fact break the law…
These 3 “law” men did more to damage the integrity of Texas law and to undermine the criminal justice system there than any other group ever did before or after. But what should we do about that?
Rarely in this country is a prosecutor even punished for wrongdoing. Not that prosecutorial misconduct is a pandemic…but the fact is that it happens. And once is too often.
Mr. Morton spent 25 years in hell for something he never did. And had DA Anderson and Sheriff Boutwell provided details discovered in their files 25 years later then Mr. Morton would never have been convicted. The DA…now judge Anderson is trying to wiggle out of trouble but the facts are closing in on him. Key is the fact that the lead investigator for this crime was never even called as a witness…that is not just odd but it helps to paint the picture of what this DA was thinking at the time. One must understand the details withheld from the defense….things like Detective Woods interview with Morton’s mother in-law when she disclosed what Eric had witnessed…the defense never got to see that report. Nor did they ever find out that 2 days after the murder someone in another part of Texas used the victims credit card…which fit the fact that Mrs Morton was killed and robbed since her purse and a gun were missing. No report was turned over to the defense that 9 days after the murder someone had forged the victims name and cashed a check made out to her… all reports investigated by one man…the lead investigator Sgt Wood. The investigator never called as a witness by DA Anderson…
Anderson did call Sheriff Boutwell who did not do the investigation. If you seem confused by this last bit of information that is understandable. What prosecutor fails to call his lead investigator? Perhaps a prosecutor who wished to avoid this investigator being questioned on the stand by the defense? Sgt Wood also took the call from a neighbor who reported a green van and a strange man behind the Morton home… a report never turned over to the defense lawyers…are you getting the picture? Hold on I will be painting some more in a minute…
What motivates men like Anderson or Mignini the Italian maniac prosecutor responsible for Amanda Knox wrongful prosecution?… Is it pride or are they so convinced of guilt that they just “help” the case along a bit? Or is it something else? It happens often enough to be a serious problem…and yet the fact that it happens and is discovered leaves one to question just how often they get away with it?
Texas executes more people than any other state in the USA; perhaps every judge and lawmaker should be required to study what went wrong in the conviction of Michael Morton. A conviction and sentence (life in prison) that DA Anderson said “was too good for him”…back in 1987. Last year Anderson said oops sorry. Huh?
Today this man is a judge…which in some ways makes him less dangerous since it is the prosecutors who wield the real power…to bring a case or not. But in Texas there is a good ole boy network you can be sure. It is exemplified by the new DA who took over for Mr. Anderson when he became a judge…that man John Bradley placed every roadblock he could in the way of Morton’s new defense team who was demanding a review of the case and the evidence. He blocked DNA testing of evidence that simply was not available back in 1987 and that speaks volumes about how that ole boy network needs looked into. Why any DA would fight to disallow a review of the case makes one wonder what he has to hide. And so Mr. Morton’s lawyers spent an extra 8 years fighting to overcome Bradley’s objections…all while Michael Morton rotted away in a jail cell.
Common sense tells us the truth. What was found in the case files reveals a crooked DA and a dirty Sheriff. The sheriff is dead now…the lead investigator is suffering from dementia. Only Anderson and Bradley are still abusing the law in Texas…so what should we do about them?
Mr. Anderson has come forward and apologized that “the system failed Mr. Morton”, and he stated how sorry that this poor man spent 25 years of his life needlessly in jail for a crime he never committed. The system failed him? How about two dirty rotten Texas lawmen failed Mr. Morton! Was it the system who failed to provide Mr. Morton’s defense with all the missing “Brady material” or was it DA Anderson? Was it the system who testified in place of the lead investigator or the rotten sheriff who buddies around with the DA?
I could write a book and not cover all the details of this wrongful conviction…nor will that be the subject of this article…it is enough to know that Michael Morton is now free thanks in no small part to the Innocence
Project. In fact Mr. Morton could have been free 8 years sooner but the man who took over DA Anderson’s job was John Bradley and he placed road block after road block …8 years worth stalling DNA testing in the Morton case. What motivates these men who seem to be decent persons but take such actions that basically impede a search for the truth? Bradley had nothing to lose by allowing DNA testing of the Morton case…but how about his pal Judge Anderson? Did he have anything to lose if the truth showed that Texas law was being misused in this case?
Eight extra unnecessary years…but justice finally prevailed and so 25 years too late Mr. Morton is free. And it gets even better…the DNA tests revealed the real killer. And so 25 years (and at least one extra innocent murdered victim) too late they take Mark Norwood into custody. His DNA links him to the Morton murder and to another murder …two years later of a Debra Baker in 1988. I wonder if Judge Anderson apologized to the Baker family since the “system” apparently let them down as well?
So what should we do? What can we do? Unfortunately in this case time has run out. Even though it is clear that then DA Anderson broke the law and withheld Brady material from the defense and he continued to do that all thru Morton’s years long appeals process…the truth is that the statute of limitations has run out and this now judge is beyond prosecution. Not that he was likely to be prosecuted anyway. It seems our Supreme Court has decided to protect these upholders of justice…protect them from prosecution for any and all injustices they may commit. A prosecutor has a sort of golden ticket or maybe a better metaphor is a get out of jail free card. If an insurance salesman commits an error in your policy and you are harmed by that you can sue him or her. If a doctor removes your right leg when you went in to have rotator cuff repair then you can sue him…and if he did it willfully he can be jailed too. Not so with our prosecutors…the Supreme Court feels they deserve some sort of extra protection as if not having it would undermine the legal system. I suggest the Morton case shines a beacon exactly on why that is a crazy notion.
The legal system in Texas has been damaged and has allowed it to have a shadow cast upon itself by this unjust and illegal prosecution and it compounds that error by denying defense testing for 8 additional years…and we can go back and understand that this DA wanted to kill Mr. Morton…what other conclusion can we understand from “life in prison is too good for him”? And how does now Judge Anderson’s pal DA John Bradley explain his extraordinary efforts at blocking DNA testing in this case…not 25 years ago but just in the last few years? He does not even try to explain that.
Mr. Bradley was up for reelection this year… thankfully he was voted out and in large part due to his behavior in Mr. Morton’s case. What goes around does indeed come back around…but truthfully Bradley should be stripped of his license to practice law…but that will not happen.
And Judge Anderson still sits on the bench being called “your honor” when there is nothing honorable about him! And Texans are stuck with him until and if he decides to run for reelection….I’m betting he retires…if not he will get tossed out same as Bradley did. And so the wheels of justice will turn on…not perfect, very flawed, but ever evolving hopefully towards everything Lady Justitia represents to law…balancing the scales of truth and fairness and with the sword of reason and justice.
Although it is unsubstantiated that Edmond Burke is responsible for the following I’d like to think he said it as it suits him… “All it will take for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing”.
Texas has already paid some 2 1/2 million to Michael Morton for his unjust prosecution…which does not seem near enough considering what we now know about this case. Powerful persons took extraordinary actions to inhibit a real investigation and because of that a man lost 25 years of his life and at least one other family lost a loved one to the real murderer…that makes former DA Anderson guilty of accessory to murder in my mind…
Good thing for him I am not holding those scales and sword.