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Morton now eligible for financial compensation for wrongful conviction

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Posted: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 11:04 am

Upon the written motion of District Attorney John Bradley, District Judge Sid Harle dismissed the murder indictment pending against Michael Morton. The dismissal concluded the cooperative post-conviction investigation by Bradley and Morton's lawyers into the innocence of Morton.

Post-conviction DNA testing, which was not available at the time of the original trial, had revealed new evidence showing Morton was actually innocent of a murder conviction from 25 years ago.

The order of dismissal makes Morton eligible for financial compensation from the state of Texas through a special account set up for such cases. Bradley, who was not a prosecutor when the case was brought to trial, said he will assist Morton in seeking the compensation by cooperating with the Texas Comptroller's Office.

The Innocence Project also issued a lengthy report summarizing the history of the Morton case and the information that was cooperatively gathered through depositions, interviews and a review of the record. According to Bradley's office, the report repeatedly recognizes that the current District Attorney's Office was cooperative throughout the investigation and acted professionally in the post-conviction review process.

The report does request that a court of inquiry be initiated against former District Attorney Ken Anderson. A court of inquiry is a legal process by which a judge may investigate an allegation of wrongdoing that has been alleged by submission of a detailed affidavit by a concerned person. Should any additional hearings be held in connection with Morton's request for a court of inquiry, a special prosecutor will likely be appointed, as Bradley and his office could be called as witnesses to some of the information collected against Anderson.

Bradley, based on information he had available from the record and from the original prosecutor Ken Anderson, had initially opposed testing of a bandana because it was not clearly connected to the crime (it was found over 100 yards away from the crime scene at a construction site) and had been potentially contaminated by how it was collected (the chain of custody was damaged when it was picked up by a family member, not law enforcement, and brought back to the crime scene).

Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield, based upon those arguments, had denied the request for testing of the bandana. The Austin Court of Appeals took several years to consider Morton's appeal but ultimately ordered the testing of the bandana. Due to a backlog of cases, a private lab took another year of delay to complete the testing.

"The District Attorney's Office acted on the post-conviction DNA testing request by relying on the best information that was available at that time," said Bradley. "Nonetheless, I deeply regret the delays that occurred in reaching this point today. I join Judge Harle in his expression of regret that Michael Morton was wrongfully convicted. We all have learned valuable lessons about how the pursuit of justice sometimes requires the reconsideration of what originally seems were reasonable choices."

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