Exoneree Michael Morton shares story at UT

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by JADE MINGUS / KVUE NEWS and photojournalist JOHN FISHER

Bio | Email | Follow: @JadeM_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on March 29, 2012 at 6:09 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 29 at 6:21 PM

AUSTIN -- The University of Texas School of Law held a forum Thursday focused on prosecutorial oversight in conjunction with the Innocence Project and exonerees.
 
Michael Morton spoke at the symposium. He was freed from prison in October after serving nearly 25 years for a crime he didn't commit. DNA evidence exonerated him in his wife's death. Now another man, Mark Norwood, is facing trial for her murder.
 
Morton said he is trying to raise awareness about prosecutorial misconduct because he warns it can happen to anyone.
 
"I didn't have a criminal record. I lived in the good part of town. I had a career, a child, a wife, a dog. I was the average 'Joe Blow,'" said Morton.
 
For years Morton was locked away in prison while his young son grew up without his father.
 
"He was the center of my universe. Whatever is most important to you, when you lose it, that's what breaks you," said Morton.  
 
Morton's attorneys with the Innocence Project blame former Williamson County prosecutor Ken Anderson. They believe he withheld evidence that would have freed Morton. Anderson is now facing a court of inquiry which is scheduled to begin in September. Anderson currently serves as a judge in Georgetown.
 
Thursday the Innocence Project released a new report on prosecutorial misconduct in Texas. It found there were 91 cases of prosecutorial misconduct in the state from 2004 to 2008; 28 percent were murder cases, 24 percent related to sex crimes. The report found the Texas Bar Association publicly punished only one prosecutor.
 
"There aren't systems in place in Texas, and in other states around the country, to make sure when they err, it's caught, and remedied, and addressed," said Stephen Saloom, public policy director for the Innocence Project.
 
John Thompson also spoke at the forum. He served 18 years in prison -- 14 years on death row in Louisiana before DNA evidence proved his innocence.  
 
"We all should be standing up. We all should be getting together and do something about it," Thompson said. "We've got to have something in place, and right now we don't."
 
The Innocence Project believes more ethical training is needed for prosecutors. The group also wants district attorneys across the country to implement misconduct policies.

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