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.
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.
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.