State got this one very wrong

Michael Morton knows what it means to wear a label unjustly.

The label he wore for 25 years was that of “murderer.” He spent a quarter-century in a Texas prison — sentenced for a crime he didn’t commit. He’s out of prison now and is becoming a prison-reform advocate. Evan Smith, editor in chief of the Texas Tribune, talked to Morton this past summer, but on Thursday, KACV-TV is re-airing an “Overheard with Evan Smith” program to drive home the point that the state sometimes gets it wrong when it sentences someone to prison.

The program airs at 8 p.m.

Morton was convicted for the 1986 death of his wife, Christine. He was summoned home by Central Texas police investigators. He was told of his wife’s death and, apparently not reacting the way the police expected him to react, he was taken into custody and eventually charged with her brutal murder. A little problem arose long after his conviction and sentencing: It seems that defense witnesses were denied access to DNA evidence and eyewitness accounts of neighbors that could have exonerated Morton.

Morton worked tirelessly over many years to get someone to hear his side of the story. Eventually he did, the state overturned his conviction and this past summer he was released, becoming the 45th person released from prison after being convicted wrongly.

Morton wants to change legislation to loosen requirements to enable defense counsel greater access to information that can help their clients.

When you watch Morton’s interview with Smith, you see a man without outward signs of bitterness, cynicism or anger. Smith admits in the interview that he gets mad “just talking about it.” Morton is the picture of serenity as he revisits the circumstances leading up to his arrest, conviction and imprisonment.

When you see the program you just might get the sense that this individual can obtain the criminal justice reform he seeks.


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