Texas man freed after DNA clears him in wife’s killing
GEORGETOWN, Texas - A Texas grocery store employee who was wrongly convicted and spent nearly 25 years in prison in his wife’s beating death walked free yesterday after DNA tests showed another man was responsible. His attorneys say prosecutors and investigators deliberately kept evidence out of court that would have helped acquit him at trial.
Michael Morton, 57, was convicted on circumstantial evidence in the August 1986 death of his wife, Christine. Morton said he left her and the couple’s 3-year-old son to head to work at 5:30 a.m. that day and steadfastly maintained through the years that an intruder must have been responsible.
Prosecutors had claimed Morton killed his wife in a fit of rage after she would not have sex with him following a dinner celebrating his 32d birthday.
The case in Williamson County, north of Austin, will probably raise more questions about the district attorney, John Bradley, a Governor Rick Perry appointee whose tenure on the Texas Forensic Science Commission was controversial. Bradley criticized the commission’s investigation of the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004 after being convicted of arson in the deaths of his three children. Some specialists have since concluded the forensic science in the case was faulty.
Bradley did not try the original case against Morton. But the Innocence Project in New York, which specializes in using DNA testing to overturn wrongful convictions, has accused him of suppressing evidence that would have helped clear Morton sooner. That evidence - including a transcript of a police interview indicating that Morton’s son said the attacker was not his father - was ultimately obtained by the Innocence Project through a request under the Texas Public Information Act.
Using techniques not available during Morton’s original 1987 trial, authorities discovered Christine Morton’s DNA on a bloody bandana discovered near the Morton home along with that of a convicted felon whose name was not released.