Michael Morton

A few seconds of justice —a quarter of a century overdue

Michael Morton languished behind bars nearly 25 years for the murder of his wife, Christine, in Williamson County, Texas, before DNA identified the actual killer, leading to Morton’s release on October 4, 2011, and official exoneration two months later.

The crime occurred on August 13, 1986, after Morton had left for work. Christine’s body was found in their bed later in the day. She had been beaten to death. Even though the couple’s 3-year-old son told his grandmother that “a monster” had killed his mother and his “daddy . . . was not home” and even though no physical evidence linked Morton to the crime, he was convicted by a jury in 1987 and sentenced to life in prison.

The prosecutor in the case, Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson, withheld significant exculpatory evidence, which came to light after DNA testing identified the murderer, who had committed a similar crime a year after Christine’s murder.

The Texas Supreme Court held a Court of Inquiry and, in April 2013, the court recommended that Anderson face charges for criminal contempt and tampering with evidence. Anderson by then had become a judge, a position from which he resigned in September 2013.

On November 8, 2013, Anderson was sentenced to 10 days in jail and agreed to disbarment for withholding evidence that sent Morton to prison for 24 years, 7 months, 11 days.

With time off for day-for-day good time, Anderson spent just four days in jail for a crime he unquestionably committed—compared with 8,989 days that Morton languished in prison for a crime he unquestionably did not commit.

— Rob Warden