Lou Bryan, one of the twelve jurors who convicted Michael Morton of the murder of his wife Christine after prosecutors failed to disclose exculpatory evidence that pointed to a killer other than Michael, has written an opinion editorial for the Austin American-Statesman in support of the Michael Morton Act that will soon be considered by the Texas Senate.
We have re-posted the op-ed in it’s entirety below:
Posted: 6:00 p.m. Friday, April 5, 2013
Bryan: Legislature must pass the Michael Morton Act
By Lou Bryan
In 1987, I was teaching English at Round Rock High School and raising my family. When I received notice that I was chosen for jury duty, I had no idea that what I was about to experience would forever change my life.
I was on the jury that convicted Michael Morton of the murder of his wife, Christine. The other jurors and I carefully considered everything we were told about the case. We made our decision about the verdict in good faith, using all the information we were given. The problem is, as the world now knows, we weren’t told everything about Morton’s case.
Prosecutors failed to share critical information such as police reports of suspicious activity near the Morton home in the weeks prior to Christine Morton’s murder. We were never told that neighbors had noticed a man in a green van parking near the Morton home and walking into the field behind it.
Most hauntingly, they failed to share the eyewitness account of Michael and Christine Morton’s 3-year old son, Eric, who said that his daddy wasn’t home when his mommy was killed and that it was a “monster” who killed Mommy.
DNA has now proven that another man killed Christine Morton. While Michael Morton was serving the life sentence that I voted for, another man was on the loose. That man’s DNA has been linked to a second murder, another woman, also bludgeoned to death in her bed. She was killed two years after Christine Morton’s death, while Michael Morton sat in prison.
The prosecutors in the Morton case broke the rules. By hiding key evidence, they did not adhere to their obligations as mandated by federal constitutional law. In the process, they destroyed Michael Morton’s life and his family’s happiness. But they also greatly harmed the lives of the men and women who sat on Michael Morton’s jury. By lying to us, and forcing us to come to a decision without all the information at their disposal, they made us accomplices in a tragic and heartbreaking miscarriage of justice.
The good news is that there is a remedy for what happened to Michael Morton and to his jurors. The Texas Legislature can pass the Michael Morton Act.
The bill clearly describes what prosecutors must turn over to defense in criminal trials. It provides clear instructions for turning over favorable information, like the information withheld in Morton’s case. The prosecutors provide a complete list of the evidence turned over to the defense, to be retained in the court file. The act also allows judges to limit or change what is shared when it is appropriate.
The miscarriage of justice in the Morton case was the direct result of the failure of the prosecution to share evidence properly in the discovery phase of the trial. If all the information had been shared, I believe we would have come to a different verdict. I believe Michael Morton would have been able to go home, raise his son, and heal from the loss of his wife. I believe that the second victim might still be alive today.
We can’t go back and change what has already happened, but we must learn from it. That is why the Legislature must pass the Michael Morton Act. Rules for criminal trials should be clearly stated in our law, and those rules must be followed in our courtrooms in order for our trials to be fair and just.
No one should be called to jury duty and be left with a lifetime of regret and guilt.