Evidence of Innocence: The case of Michael Morton

After nearly 25 years in prison, Michael Morton was exonerated by a DNA test. Did a prosecutor hide evidence that could have proven Morton's innocence during his 1987 trial?

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Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson prosecuted Michael Morton. He told the jury Morton killed his wife because she wouldn't have sex with him. There was no murder weapon or direct evidence linking Morton to the crime, but Anderson argued persuasively that Morton was violent and unremorseful.

[Ken Anderson: It got sickening after a while to watch him cry at the wrong times and he seemed only to cry for himself.]

Morton and his original trial lawyers always suspected there was evidence that would have helped establish his innocence, that Anderson wasn't telling them about. But they were never given full access to the police reports in the prosecutor's file. It wasn't until recently, after years of legal wrangling, that lawyers Barry Scheck and Nina Morrison of The Innocence Project, and John Raley, a private attorney in Houston, finally got a look at Anderson's file from the original trial.

John Raley: It was one of those moments where you almost f-- you almost faint. To hold in my hand a copy of a document that the district attorney at the time had and didn't tell anybody about it on the defense side...

Lara Logan: That document would've proved what?

John Raley: Would've proved that Michael Morton is innocent.

He's talking about this police report, in which Christine's mother told investigators that her 3-year-old grandson Eric had witnessed the murder and described to her in detail how he saw a "monster" with a "big moustache" kill his mother.

"He hit mommy," Eric says in the report.

"Was daddy there?" His grandmother asks.

"No, mommy and Eric was there."

There was also this report in which a neighbor described seeing a suspicious man "park a green van on the street" and "walk into the wooded area" behind the Morton home. Barry Scheck says this is precisely the kind of information a prosecutor is legally and ethically obligated to disclose.

Barry Scheck: Sitting in the prosecutor's file and sitting in the sheriff's file there was a set of documents which, if they had been revealed, and the defense had seen them, Michael Morton would have been acquitted.

Ken Anderson went on to be named prosecutor of the year in Texas and since 2002 he's been a district judge in the same court where Michael Morton was convicted. All those years, Morton languished in prison.

Michael Morton: My first cell I could stretch out my arms and before my elbows locked, I was touchin' both walls. And you got two grown men in there. The food's abysmal. You're never alone. The system controls every part of your life.

Lara Logan: Its soul destroying?

Michael Morton: Yeah. It eats at you kind of like a rust.

The one thing he told us that sustained him was the thought of his son. He was allowed to see Eric for two hours, once every six months.

Lara Logan: When he was about 12 or 13 years old, he wrote to you and said he didn't wanna come and see you anymore. Was your heart broken?

Michael Morton: Can't really limit to your heart.

Lara Logan: Everything?

Michael Morton: It's just-- when your child says they no longer want to come see you.

Lara Logan: And then when he turned 18, what did he do?