Guilty Until Proven Innocent – Michael Morton and Texas Justice

As a man, I can imagine no more painful experience than the murder of my wife. For Michael Morton, there was a step beyond the murder of his wife: being charged, convicted and imprisoned for over 25 years for the murder of his wife.

Michael last saw his wife alive the morning of August 13, 1986. The family celebrated his 32nd birthday the day before.

Michael Morton - Wrongfully Convicted in the Murder of His Wife
Michael Morton – Wrongfully Convicted in the Murder of His Wife

Texas Senate’s attempts to limit wrongful convictions commendable

Justice fell into a downward spiral, starting with the Williamson County Sheriff’s failure to develop evidence or leads on the case. Without benefit of material evidence, Michael became the Sheriff’s prime suspect, his only suspect. Read Michael Morton’s story “The Innocent Man” by Pamela Colloff in the Texas Monthly PART 1 and PART 2.

After last minute amendments to shield witnesses from retribution, the Michael Morton Act passed 31-0 in the Texas Senate. It next goes to the Texas House. I invite you (Texas residents only) to contact your respective House member. Urge him or her to support the Michael Morton Act.

Getting Away With Murder

Unlike TV murder mysteries, law enforcement officers and prosecutors don’t have benefit of real-life “Jessica Fletchers” and “Columbos” who find the most minute, obscure clues for a 100% resolution of murder cases. About 6,000 murder cases go unsolved – forever.

Convenient Evidence

It’s logical and practical for investigators to start with whatever clues and associations first present themselves, common sense, if you will. Human nature, being what it is, tends to jump to conclusions prematurely. You know this to be a fact from your own life experiences.

How Can Eyewitnesses Be Wrong?

To answer this question, I refer you to the story of Ronald Cotton who was wrongfully convicted of rape in 1985. His alleged victim, Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, positively identified him. Other eye witnesses identified him as being in the neighborhood. Ms. Cannino experienced to traumatic events: the 1984 rape and discovering 11 years late the innocence of Mr. Cotton. Despite positive identification, Ronald was found innocent. In this case, the actual rapist was imprisoned with Ronald. It was the rapist’s confessions to cell mates and DNA tests that served to exonerate Ronald Cotton. Read the full story from The Innocence Project.

3 thoughts on “Guilty Until Proven Innocent – Michael Morton and Texas Justice

  1. The County of Dallas under the Former DA’s has a conviction rate nearly 3 times the Entire State of California for wrongful convictions. 90% of those wrongful convictions were of people of Color Maybe make a Wrongful conviction due to with-held Information a FELONY that might make a Differnce

  2. There is too much pressure on the law officials to prosecute some one. They have to find someone to prosecute to show they are doing their job. I have a friend that is being prosecuted right now even though I know her innocence because I was there. She will probably get out of it but its going to cost her thousands of dollars of borrowed money she wont get back. Otherwise; If you don’t have money you are screwed. And in most cases If you are honest and innocent. you are not going to have any money anyway I know someone else that is innocent that had a court appointed lawyer. He just died in prison yesterday after serving 10 years for a 16 year sentence for rape just because he wouldn’t let her borrow his car. (She also got 2500.00 cash to say to the court what they wanted to hear). He was screwed because he didn’t have any money to defend his self. Court appointed lawyers just sit there and smile.

    1. Jesse,

      Our remedy for injustice if public education, involvement and activism.

      Here in my own locale, a young mother was unjustly arrested for DUI. She was not. I obtained police videos of the entire drama whereby a policeman pre-judged her drunk because she stumbled on a rough parking surface on the way to her car. The officer followed her a few miles, looking for any opportunity to stop her. She became very nervous as she watched this fellow following through her rearview mirror. The young mother turned to get into a public parking lot and, due to her anxiety, turned into the left lane instead of the right of a small divided street. He then turned on his lights and siren, pulled up behind her and the arrest drama played out. He first stated his reason for stopping her was her turn onto the wrong way street. Later in the video, he stated he stopped her because he saw her stumble in that parking lot a few miles away from which this drama started.

      I listened to her version of events. Then, I talked with her attorney who said to me, “John, they have no case against her.”

      Due to the total lack of evidence of drunkenness, the prosecutor dropped the DUI charge, but he decided to prosecute on a secondary unjust charge of interference in an officer’s duty.

      At this point, I decided to be her champion. Shortly thereafter all charges were dropped.

      My chief tool is educating government people. I use the first sentence of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. The chief duty of all government is to secure our rights.

      Without spending even one dime, it is possible to bring relief to persons unjustly accused and/or tried in court.

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