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Posts Tagged ‘innocence’

The slow decline of the death penalty in Texas

Maybe a little. Perhaps nothing symbolizes this state’s swagger over being tough on crime like “Old Sparky,” an electric chair that was used to execute 361 inmates and is now the centerpiece of a prison museum. It sits just minutes from the Texas penitentiary where it was forever unplugged 50 years ago this summer following […]

Palau catches a little heat for hiring John Bradley

Hilarious. The president of Palau has defended appointing a US lawyer who left his previous role as Texas county prosecutor amid controversy over an innocent man who spent almost 25 years behind bars. President Tommy Remengesau confirmed former Williamson County district attorney John Bradley would take up a position as assistant attorney general in the […]

Charles Sebesta may finally have to face responsibility for his actions against Anthony Graves

Very good news. It’s been eight years since the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the DA who prosecuted Anthony Graves for capital murder had done something unconscionable : withheld favorable evidence and used false testimony to secure a conviction—a conviction that sent Graves to death row. Since that federal ruling came down in […]

John Bradley’s second act

Lisa Falkenberg brings a fascinating and unexpected update to the story of John Bradley, the former Williamson County DA and Texas Forensic Science Commissioner who served as one of the main villains in the Michael Morton case. Since losing elected office, Bradley has tried to find work. In 2012, I wrote about him applying to […]

Some things are worth paying more for

How much would you pay for fewer faulty convictions? Prosecutors say the state’s new Michael Morton Act, a measure designed to prevent wrongful convictions by forcing district attorneys to be more transparent in criminal cases, is driving up evidence costs. “That is an issue for a lot of folks,” said Rob Kepple, executive director for […]

How much will science advance in the courts?

It’s up to the CCA to decide. Texas’ highest criminal court will hear arguments Wednesday in a case that could affect how evolving scientific evidence is used in courtrooms across the state. For Neal H. Robbins, the high court’s decision will determine whether he gets another shot at arguing his innocence. In 1999, a jury […]

State Bar investigating Charles Sebesta

Good. The State Bar of Texas has opened an investigation into Charles Sebesta, the former Burleson County District Attorney who prosecuted death row exoneree Anthony Graves. The organization that oversees lawyers is investigating alleged professional misconduct by Sebesta, which, if proven, could result in his disbarment. The investigation was prompted by a complaint that Graves […]

More evidence of Cameron Willingham’s innocence

The scientific evidence against Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004 for the arson deaths of his three children, has long been discredited. The other piece of evidence used against him at trial was the testimony of a jailhouse informer, who said that Willingham confessed to him. Now that piece of evidence is under […]

More details on the rape kit backlog results

HPD reports to Council about the progress of testing done on the backlogged rape kits. No false arrests by Houston police have been uncovered during an ongoing $4.4 million testing of thousands of old rape kits, but new suspects have been developed with DNA, leading to an undisclosed number of arrests, police commanders told City […]

Not just DNA

There are a lot of other exonerations that happen around the country, for crimes major and minor, that don’t involve DNA. In September 2006, [Corey] Love was charged by Houston police with possession of between one and four grams of cocaine, a felony. He was 20 years old and indigent. He had two choices when […]

Charles Sebesta needs to be held accountable

Amen to this. Former Texas death row inmate Anthony Graves, who spent 18 years behind bars before he was exonerated in the bloody 1992 slaying of a Somerville grandmother, her daughter and four grandchildren, is seeking justice against the man who put him there. In 2006, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Graves’ […]

Anthony Robinson named to crime lab LGC

Excellent choice. The latest appointment to the city’s crime lab oversight board brings a unique perspective to the post. Anthony Robinson spent 10 years in prison for a rape he did not commit before being exonerated by the kind of DNA testing the proposed new crime lab will perform. “I am very sensitive to the […]

We need a Conviction Integrity Unit in Harris County

From the DMN: Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins has gained a national reputation for spearheading prisoner exonerations. As he prepares to seek a third term, Watkins said Thursday he wants to expand on that role and add a few others. … Watkins, a Democrat who was first elected in 2006, gained attention for using […]

Ken Anderson accepts a plea deal

Some closure in the Michael Morton case. Former Williamson County State District Judge Ken Anderson, who oversaw the wrongful murder conviction of Michael Morton as a prosecutor, was sentenced to nine days in jail on Friday and will surrender his law license as part of a deal to resolve criminal charges and a civil lawsuit. […]

Interview with Anthony Robinson

If you’ve followed the news at all in Texas over the past decade or so you’re familiar with the large number of convicted inmates who have been subsequently freed after being exonerated by DNA evidence. That’s the story of District D candidate Anthony Robinson, who was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit in 1986, […]

State Bar seeks sanctions against Ken Anderson

Seems reasonable to me. Arguing that a trial is no longer needed, the State Bar of Texas has asked a judge to summarily rule that former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson engaged in professional misconduct by hiding evidence in the murder trial of Michael Morton, who was exonerated after spending almost 25 years in […]

Michael Morton Act signed into law

Excellent news. With exoneree Michael Morton by his side, Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday signed a measure that aims to avoid wrongful convictions by preventing prosecutors from suppressing evidence. “This is a major victory for integrity and fairness in our judicial system,” Perry said of Senate Bill 1611, which was named for Morton, who spent […]

Court of inquiry issues arrest warrant for Ken Anderson

Wow. A judge issued an arrest warrant for former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson Friday, after finding probable cause to believe Anderson withheld critical evidence in Michael Morton’s 1987 murder trial. Judge Louis Sturns concluded his court of inquiry by charging Anderson, who is now a state district judge, with tampering with government records […]

Reciprocal discovery

There’s a bit of controversy brewing over one of the criminal justice reforms that have been proposed. The bill at issue was filed on deadline day. Senate Bill 1611 would enact uniform discovery requirements in criminal cases across Texas. It would require prosecutors to give defense lawyers evidence in their files and to include essentially […]

Jefferson pushes for judicial reforms

Most of what Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson had to say to the Lege during his biennial address was good stuff that I hope the Lege will heed. Presenting his State of the Judiciary speech to Texas lawmakers, Jefferson said that “wrongful convictions leave our citizens vulnerable, as actual perpetrators remain free” and […]

Court of inquiry concludes

The court of inquiry that was examining the behavior of then-prosecutor Ken Anderson has concluded with Anderson’s testimony in his defense. Having seen what he had to say for himself, I find myself not terribly sympathetic to him or his situation. At times fighting back tears, Anderson called Morton’s case his “worst nightmare” but defended […]

The court of inquiry

Going on this week is a court of inquiry in the matter of Williamson County Judge Ken Anderson, who was the District Attorney that won a conviction against Michael Morton for the murder of his wife, Christine, which as we know has since been overturned after DNA evidence cleared him and implicated another man. The […]

In praise of CODIS

We’re catching more crooks thanks to DNA. Not exactly an earth-shattering revelation, but it’s always nice to have some numbers. The number of Texas crimes solved after a suspect’s DNA matched with offenders’ DNA samples stored in the national repository known as CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) recently passed the 10,000th mark. The state averaged […]

Arson review moving forward

Good. A long-awaited review of old Texas arson cases — an unprecedented search for wrongful convictions based on bad fire investigation science — is picking up speed and will probably produce the first results in January, participants said [last] Friday. One suspect case has been identified and about 26 others are being scrutinized for evidence […]

Hampton going after Keller

I wish him the best of luck. The ethics behind Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller’s decision to shut the doors on a death penalty appeal are resurfacing as her opponent launches a contentious campaign against her. Democratic defense lawyer Keith Hampton is striking out at Keller, a Dallas resident who’s held the […]

Beating Bradley

The Statesman writes about the aftermath of the GOP primary for District Attorney in Williamseon County where voters resoundingly threw out John Bradley. Michael Morton wasn’t on the ballot, didn’t campaign and didn’t back a candidate, but the recently exonerated former inmate cast a long shadow on the Williamson County district attorney race, becoming the […]

The exoneration that wasn’t

I don’t know about you, but I’d forgotten about this. A Texas judge who reviewed the controversial 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham planned to posthumously exonerate the father who was put to death for killing his three daughters in a house fire. Scientific experts who debunked the arson evidence used against Willingham at his […]

Why better eyewitness ID procedures matter

Because bad eyewitness ID procedures can lead to the wrong people being executed. State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, stopped short of claiming Texas wrongfully executed suspect Carlos DeLuna for the February 1983 murder of store clerk Wanda Lopez. Gallego, however, said the way Corpus Christi police handled the suspect’s identification […]

“Open letter to Williamson County”

John Raley is the attorney who worked for years to exonerate Michael Morton on the charge of murdering his wife in 1987. The key to the case was a bloody bandana, which DNA testing showed belonged to the real killer. Williamson County DA John Bradley fought against allowing the DNA test to proceed at every […]

Court of inquiry appointed in Morton case

Maybe now we’ll get some answers. A special court will examine whether Georgetown District Judge Ken Anderson acted improperly when, as Williamson County’s district attorney in 1987, he prosecuted Michael Morton for a murder the authorities now acknowledge he did not commit. Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson convened a court of inquiry Thursday […]

Court of inquiry recommended in Morton case

Good. Former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson should face a court of inquiry to examine allegations that he hid evidence that could have spared Michael Morton from a wrongful murder conviction and almost 25 years in prison, a state district judge ruled Friday. The finding means District Judge Sid Harle found probable cause to […]

“Beyond DNA”

The Dallas Observer has a good story about the state of the exoneration business now that most of the cases involving DNA have been handled. Since Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins took office in 2007, incidents of wrongfully convicted men being released from Texas prisons have become almost commonplace. Dramatic scenes of innocent men […]

Grievances filed over Morton case

Interesting. The Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability (TCLA) announced that its Executive Director, Julie Oliver, is today filing disciplinary grievances against prosecutors in the Michael Morton case: current Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley; former Williamson County District Attorney (and current District Judge) Ken Anderson; former Williamson County Assistant District Attorney Mike Davis. Published reports […]

It’s a long way to Damascus

The Trib has a good story about Williamson County DA John Bradley, whom you may recall as Rick Perry’s chief hatchet man on the Forensic Science Commission, and his apparent conversion to open-mindedness in the wake of the DNA exoneration of Michael Morton, who was convicted of murdering his wife in 1987 by Bradley’s predecessor […]