A judge from Waco County, Texas says that the exoneration of Michael Morton has caused potential jurors in one of his capital trials to second-guess the truthfulness of the government, reports WacoTrib.com.
Nearly one-in-five people called for questioning in jury selection for the murder trial of Albert Leslie Love Jr. are being excluded from service because they communicate feelings of “distrust for the criminal justice system spawned by Morton’s exoneration,” according to Judge Ralph Strother of the 19th State District Court of Texas.
An attorney who represented Love’s co-defendant and who has worked with attorneys for the Innocence Project, Walter Reaves Jr., commented to WacoTrib.com, “I think people who are aware of that case are just more suspicious of the prosecution now and they are going to be more cautious about the decisions they make.”
At the national level, we recently reported on a survey that found over 70% of Americans think prosecutorial misconduct goes largely undiscovered and unpunished. Both the organization that commissioned the survey, the Center for Prosecutor Integrity, and the WacoTrib.com article note the important role of lawmakers in addressing the public’s misgivings about prosecutorial misconduct.
In April of this year, Texas lawmakers responded to Morton’s exoneration by passing the Michael Morton Act, which brings district attorneys’ disclosure practices into line by mandating that all prosecutors disclose exculpatory or impeachment evidence to defendants in a timely manner. The new law provides a timeline and accounting process to make sure that its provisions are followed, and specifies that prosecutors turn over all police reports and witness statements to defendants (though it contains provisions to protect sensitive witness information).
Of course, regulations like the Michael Morton Act require adherence to be meaningful; it seems that prosecutors in the county of Waco need time to demonstrate that they will play by these new rules before they can dispel their community’s doubts.