Mark Norwood found guilty, sentenced to life for Morton murder

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by SHANNON MURRAY / KVUE News and photojournalist ROBERT MCMURREY and KVUE.com

Bio | Email | Follow: @ShannonM_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on March 27, 2013 at 11:36 AM

Updated Monday, Apr 15 at 4:08 PM

SAN ANGELO, Texas -- A jury has found Mark Norwood guilty of capital murder in the 1986 death of Christine Morton. He has been sentenced to life in prison.

The jury made its decision in just over three hours Wednesday afternoon after six days of testimony in San Angelo.

There were tears and hugs among both the Morton and Norwood families when the verdict was read. Mark Norwood had no reaction.

Christine Morton's husband, Michael, was exonerated in 2011 after spending 25 years on death row for her murder. DNA evidence found on a bandanna at the scene cleared him of the crime and led officials to Norwood.

Both sides of the trial had an hour to make their final pleas to jurors during closing arguments Wednesday morning. Defense attorneys asked jurors to question the decades-old evidence and how it was handled. They also said the witnesses' stories could have changed over the years.

"Memories of now cloud the memories of then," said defense attorney Ariel Payan to jurors. "You could take somebody's liberty away, somebody's freedom away. You better be sure."

The state responded by saying that it's a case of common sense. They told the jury the evidence has been there all along, and it just needed science to catch up with it.

Prosecutor Lisa Tanner also reminded jurors of the Morton family -- people she says have been waiting years for a verdict.

"You have seen pure evil," Tanner told jurors. "Do not let evil walk out of here with you."

Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty in the case, so Norwood received the maximum punishment. Since Norwood's punishment falls under the 1986 law, he will be eligible for parole after serving 15 years.

Wednesday outside of the courthouse, both the Norwood and Morton families agreed the verdict was not a victory for anyone. The two families were even seen together in tears, embracing. Norwood's mother Dorothy says they have been able to find common ground.

"We both through our lives have come to know there is a God, a just God," Dorothy Norwood said.

"Today's a grim day. It's the end of a grim process that began on a very grim August morning in 1986," said Michael Morton.

While Morton says Wednesday was not a victory, now he can begin to move forward with his life. He told KVUE the first thing he wants to do is go on his honeymoon with his new wife.

"Life is good," Morton said.

DNA evidence also linked Norwood to the murder of Debra Baker in Austin. Norwood is still awaiting trial in that case.

"He was railroaded because of the Baker case entered in there. It's two separate cases. It was not right for them to do that," said Norwood's sister Connie Hoff. "We're losing hope with the justice system."

Norwood's family says they stand behind him, and they still believe he's innocent.

"I am 100 percent confident. He has never been a violent man. He's my brother," Hoff said.

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