AUSTIN (KXAN) - After spending 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, Michael Morton still has a wry sense of humor and a deep faith in God.
"I had made a -- I don't want to say a deal -- but I had basically told God that I'm not going to lie to get out," Morton said in a conversation with KXAN News on Monday. "'So God, you want me out, it shouldn't be that hard for you.'"
Morton's comments came with a hearty laugh in response to a question about why he never confessed to the crime, even though it could have meant an early parole.
Morton was convicted in 1987 for the beating death of his wife the year before in their Round Rock home. Christine and Michael had a young son, Eric, who was 3-years-old at the time of his mother's death. Morton said they had a 'boring' and typical suburban life.
Tune in to KXAN News at 5,6,9 and 10 p.m. Tuesday for more from Michael Morton in his own words, including his reunion with his son, who had changed his last name when he turned 18 in rejection of his father, his newfound joy as a grandfather and how he is crusading to hold prosecutors accountable in Texas.
"Then again, it might resonate with everybody because we were almost like a some sort of demographic cliche," Morton said. "I am you. I live -- I used to live -- in a nice neighborhood. I had a brick home. We lived on a corner lot. We had a yard and a fence and a dog.
"We had the cedar deck and the patio cover, and all the nice things. And we both had careers and we had our routines. This just doesn't happen to people of interest. This just doesn't happen to people with criminal records.
"That's what kind of got me is the stark contrast between when I left for work that morning and when I came back home. Don't think your life cannot change in a heartbeat."
Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson
Morton and his attorneys have said former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson did not turn over evidence to defense attorneys that could have set Morton free. Those lawyers never saw an interview with the Morton's son who described a monster killing his mother and he specifically said his father was not home.
There were also reports of a suspicious green van in the Morton neighborhood and a credit card stolen from the Morton home which was never investigated. Anderson, who is now a District Judge in Williamson County has denied any wrongdoing in the case and said he does not remember many of the specific details.
"I think that the people of Williamson County, and most people in general, are very forgiving and understanding if the person is very forthcoming and honest and the mea culpas come forth -- taking responsibility or saying, 'Man did I mess up here,' and maybe even giving some reasons why -- what made me do this or why did I decide this was the best route," Morton said of Anderson. "'I don't remember' works for some of the details. But not for everything."
After Morton's exoneration, Anderson formally apologized for what he described as the system's failure. But he said that he did nothing improper in the handling of the case.
The Innocence Project
When Houston pro bono attorney John Raley and the Innocence Project of New York became involved in the Morton case, they requested additional DNA testing of evidence from the crime scene, including a bloody bandana found 100 yards from the Morton home. Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, who was not involved in the original prosecution of Morton, fought the testing in court for six years.
"I have tried many times to put myself in his shoes, imaging the allegiance he might have to the adversarial system. Just thinking that if both sides are doing their best to fight for whatever is, then magically the truth will come out," said Morton.
"This was something that would not cost the state a dime. It was free. The Innocence Project was paying for it. And if it went the way he thought it might, it might actually bolster his position and so his resistance didn't seem to make a lot of rational sense. It seemed like he could actually benefit from it and yet I can't explain why he fought it."
The DNA was ultimately tested in 2011 and a match came back to a convicted felon, Mark Norwood, whose DNA was mixed with Christine Morton's blood on the bandana. Morton said he will never forget the day when Raley and Innocence Project attorney Nina Morrison came to tell him about the DNA match.
"That was on my birthday," Morton said, the memory bringing a smile to his face.
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