Texas man to go free after DNA shows he did not kill wife

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 03, 2011 7:53 PM
Texas man to go free after DNA shows he did not kill wife

By Karen Brooks

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A Texas man imprisoned for 25 years in the beating death of his wife will walk free this week after new DNA evidence linked another man to the crime, the prosecutor told Reuters on Monday.

Michael Morton was expected to be exonerated in the 1986 murder for which he was serving a life sentence and will be freed on bond pending a ruling on the new evidence by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley said.

"We are relieved that his conviction is finally on the path to be overturned and hopeful that as of tomorrow night he will be out of custody and able to finally start rebuilding his life," said Nina Morrison, a senior staff attorney with the Innocence Project, which is representing Morton.

"This is a case that really should humble all of us about the fallibility of our justice system."

Morton had been convicted in the death of his wife Christine after prosecutors persuaded the jury that he had killed her in a rage over the fact that she wouldn't have sex with him. Morton has maintained his innocence.

For years, his defense attorneys had tried to get DNA tests on a bloody bandana found near the scene, but the Innocence Project said Bradley had resisted turning it over until an appeals court ordered him to do so last year.

Bradley said tests in June revealed DNA from two people on the bandana: The victim and a man who was not her husband.

The DNA instead matched a man who had been in prison in California in 2010, and who was living in Central Texas but was not in custody on Monday afternoon, Bradley said.

Authorities were not naming the man, referring to him only as "John Doe." Bradley said he had also been linked to the 1988 beating death of another woman killed after Christine Morton was found dead in her bed in Round Rock, just north of Austin.

He said that man had been tied to a hair found in the bed of the second woman in neighboring Travis County who died after Michael Morton had already begun to serve his sentence.

"Based on that last piece of information, you get a bigger and better picture of what's going on here," Bradley said. "That justified vacating his conviction."

(Additional reporting by Corrie MacLaggan; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)