Investigating Prosecutorial Misconduct in the Michael Morton Case
Yesterday, the Innocence Project asked a Texas Court to convene a court of inquiry to investigate possible misconduct by the prosecutor in the case of Michael Morton, who was wrongfully imprisoned for nearly 25 years for the murder of his wife. Former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson, now a sitting judge, failed to turn over substantial evidence of Morton’s innocence to Morton’s attorneys at trial. This evidence included a statement from the victim’s mother that the couple’s three-year-old son, who witnessed the murder, told her that his father was not at home when the crime occurred, as well as other evidence pointing to a third party intruder.
Soon after Morton was freed in October, the Innocence Project and other partnering attorneys initiated an investigation into Morton’s wrongful conviction. Now, at the culmination of that investigation, the Innocence Project has submitted a report to the Texas Court calling for a Court of Inquiry to investigate allegations that Anderson committed intentional misconduct.
The Innocence Project fought prosecutors for six years to obtain post-conviction DNA testing for Morton. Finally, on October 4, Morton was cleared after DNA tests on a bloody bandana found near the crime scene didn’t match him and instead implicated Mark Allen Norwood who has also been linked to the subsequent murder of Debra Masters Baker.
Read more background on the Morton case.
Read more about the allegations of misconduct.
Read news coverage about the investigation.
Thomas Haynesworth is Exonerated after 27 Years
On December 6, Thomas Haynesworth was exonerated after 27 years in prison and over eight months on parole as a registered sex offender. The Innocence Project and partnering attorneys at the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project fought for years to prove that Haynesworth was innocent of all three sexual assaults for which he was convicted. Ultimately, several rounds of DNA testing, multiple polygraph tests and an extensive prosecutorial review of the evidence were required. But the massive injustice that Haynesworth and his family endured is now, finally, over. Haynesworth was wrongfully convicted at 18 years old with no criminal record when a witness misidentified him as her assailant. DNA and other evidence now links all three crimes to a serial rapist, known as the “black ninja,” who continued assaulting women after Haynesworth had been arrested.
Read more background on the case.
Read news coverage of Haynesworth’s exoneration.
Holiday Greetings from the Recently Exonerated
Jonathan Barr: For the holidays, my brother James and I are just winging it. We had a huge amount of food for Thanksgiving. We had so many family members trying to feed us that we had to give some to the homeless. We just moved into a new house, and we are so thankful and have a lot to be thankful for.
Thomas Haynesworth: We have a tree, and I decorated the tree. I’m getting gifts for my nephews and nieces and I’m looking forward to spending time with them and getting re-acquainted with family. It’s just a joy to be around family, just being back where you know you want to be. Exoneration is a plus, but spending time with family and friends is the greatest blessing.
Why I Give:
Supervisor at a hedge fund
I took criminal justice courses a few years ago and started to look into wrongful conviction cases. I’ve always been interested in criminal justice. I’m a big fan of lawyers like William Kunstler, who said, “An innocent man in prison is about as rare as a pigeon in a park.” A wrongful conviction could happen to any one of us. But I can’t tell you how many people I talk to, because I like to talk about the Innocence Project, who just don’t understand. People say—“oh, this really happens?” And they turn a blind eye to what they don’t understand.
What surprises me most is the silence, that these cases are not more highly publicized and that the whole public is not up in arms about this. As a whole, we just don’t know how many cases there are. We don’t know how many innocent people are in prison.
I give to the Innocence Project every year around the holidays because the holidays were always special to my family and I feel for other people who don’t have that experience. If someone doesn’t have family around or money for gifts or food around the holidays, I want to make the time easier for them. I think the Innocence Project is a life-saving organization, literally. I will continue to support the Innocence Project as long as you continue to stop injustice.
Join Beverly and make a year-end holiday gift today