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Chuck Lindell at The American-Statesman explains that Michael Morton chose only 2 reform bills to support at the Texas legislature this year, despite requests to back many more, so that he will not dilute his impact. It seems that his strategy is working.

Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) said his bill (co-authored by Sen. Robert Duncan) said his bill would be sunk without Morton: “We thought this bill was dead, Michael Morton kept pushing us not to give up.” Lindell reports in a March 31 article:

Texas’ criminal discovery laws haven’t been changed since their adoption in 1965, but not for lack of trying. Countless bills have been filed and forgotten — defeated by competing interests or, more often, by a lack of consensus that there was a problem in need of solving.
But Morton’s compelling story has revived reform efforts, Ellis and Duncan said, encouraging a host of interested parties to negotiate a compromise that was unveiled at a committee hearing last Tuesday.

Ellis and Duncan’s bill, the Michael Morton Act (Senate Bill 1611), passed out of committee last week and is waiting for a vote on the Senate floor. SB 1611 would require prosecutors to disclose certain materials, including witness statements and offense reports, to defense attorneys.

The other bill Morton is backing, Senate Bill 825, passed the Senate 31-0 and is awaiting hearings in the House. SB 825 is sponsored by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston and would increase the statute of limitations for filing a complaint against a prosecutor for alleged misconduct with the State Bar .

The Open File will continue to track these bills through the Texas legislature.



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