"I did not do this," Michael Morton said as he was led away in handcuffs, convicted of murdering his wife in 1987. Hardly anyone believed him. Now, after twenty five years in prison, Morton has been proven right and freed based on DNA tests. Morton and his lawyers say they recently discovered something astonishing: sitting in his prosecutor's file all those years was evidence that could have established Morton's innocence during his trial. Lara Logan reports.
The following script is from "Evidence of Innocence" which aired on March 25, 2012. Lara Logan is the correspondent. Andy Court and Anya Bourg, producers.
It's not every day that a convicted murderer clears his name and then returns to court to argue that his prosecutor should be prosecuted. But that's what happened recently in a high-profile case in Texas that raises broader questions about the power prosecutors have and what happens when they're accused of misusing it. At the center of this story is a man named Michael Morton. He was once an ordinary citizen with a wife, a child, a job, and no criminal record whatsoever. But then he was sent to prison for life.
In 1987 in a very public trial, Michael Morton was convicted of brutally murdering his wife. As he was led away to prison, he insisted he was innocent.
[Michael Morton: I did not do this.
Reporter: I'm sorry what?
Michael Morton: I did not do this.]
Hardly anyone believed him until last year when he was exonerated by DNA testing. By then, he had spent nearly 25 years of his life behind bars.
Lara Logan: What was it like for you to walk from the court a free man?
Michael Morton: It was so alien at first. It wasn't quite real. We stepped out of the courtroom and it was a beautiful sunny day. The sun felt so good on my face, on my skin. I can just feel like I was just drinking in the sunshine.
Lara Logan: Had you felt it in 25 years?
Michael Morton: I'd felt the sun, but I hadn't felt free sun.
Lara Logan: And free sun feels different?
Michael Morton: It does. It sounds stupid, but it feels different.
His nightmare began on a summer afternoon in 1986 when he came home from work in Austin, Texas and found the sheriff at his house. A neighbor had discovered his 3-year-old son Eric alone in the yard, and his wife Christine bludgeoned to death in the bedroom.
Michael Morton: I didn't really have the opportunity to grieve for her, because it-- everything changed so rapidly away from her to me.
Lara Logan: So were you a suspect from the very first moment?
Michael Morton: Yeah, if-- all the questions were adversarial, accusatory. It became clear to me that the sheriff showed up, looked around, and "Okay, husband did this."
Lara Logan: And not long after that, you were arrested.
Michael Morton: About six weeks, yeah. They literally pulled my son out of my arms 'cause he was screaming for me. And, you know, the little hand is out. And they're be-- he's being pulled away. That was one of the worst parts.