“Don’t believe everything you read in the Austin American-Statesman,” Texas Governor and Republican hopeful Rick Perry told Fox News‘ Neil Cavuto as he blasted the Austin American-Statesman at last Thursday’s final GOP candidates debate before Iowa’s January 3rd caucuses. Perry’s slam was in response to Cavuto’s question about Perry’s time as Texas agriculture commissioner and “a loan guarantee program that, as the Austin American-Statesman reported at the time, had so many defaults that the state had to stop guaranteeing bank loans to start-ups in the agribusiness, and eventually bailed out the program with the taxpayer money.”
I don’t know about any loan program or whether extra circumspection’s required when reading the Austin American-Statesman. But I do know that the Austin, Texas newspaper has been carrying news stories about something far worse in Texas. And it has nothing to do with Perry.
It’s the injustice visited upon Michael Morton, wrongfully convicted in 1987 of murdering his wife, Christine, and who is scheduled to be officially exonerated today after some 25 years in prison. He was released last October. See Michael Morton case | Austin Legal – Statesman.com and Alberta Phillips’ Op-Ed, “Sadly, justice for Michael Morton 25 years too late – Statesman.com.“
The news story has also made the national wires and is being carried by all the major news outlets, suggesting that notwithstanding its purportedly credibility-challenged source, heed should be taken.
Despite “Brady,” a recurring problem.
Several years ago, I was so infuriated after reading “the litany of legal outrages” in John Grisham’s nonfiction story of police and prosecutorial abuses attendant the wrongful conviction of Ron Williamson, “The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town,” that I bought extra copies of Grisham’s book to give away to friends. This was after first having urged them to read it.
For those happily sanguine in their belief in a fair criminal justice system and the presumption of innocence, read Grisham’s book about what happened to Ron Williamson in Ada, Texas.
And according to The Innocence Project, the problem may extend beyond a small Texas town, as “More people have been freed through DNA testing in Texas than in any other state in the country, and these exonerations have revealed deep flaws in the state’s criminal justice system.” See “Innocence Blog: Reducing Wrongful Convictions in Texas.”
As though more corroboration was necessary, there’s the case of Michael Morton, the former grocery store clerk who served almost a quarter century’s worth of a life sentence. The truth will yet out but as of now, it appears Morton should have never been convicted had a prominent prosecutor and now county judge, Ken Anderson, and then prosecutor Mike Davis, now a private practice lawyer, and current District Attorney John Bradley shared potentially exculpatory evidence with the defense – – – as required under Brady v. Maryland 373 U. S. 83.
Judge Anderson has also apologized for “the system’s failure” but not for anything he did. “In my heart, I know there was no misconduct whatsoever,” he said.
Meanwhile, Morton tries to rebuild his life. One report,“Court affirms Morton’s innocence,” says that following his release, he spent an hour in the backyard of his parents’ home just watching the squirrels at play.
Photo Credits: “Ouch, Kidney Stones Suck,” by Terry Martin, iPhone Developer, at http://www.tzmartin.com and via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution and share alike distribution at Flickr.