Sunday, December 08, 2013

CNN finally airs "An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story"

CNN amplified its film “An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story” today with a news story including four other exonerations from the Innocence Project. Morton would be freed on 2011.  The link is here.
  
The two hour film focused mostly on interviews of Morton himself, his son (who had heart surgery as a toddler), and the attorneys.  Morton was said to be unemotional and prosecutors originally said that his wife was murdered at 1 AM Aug. 13, 1986, when he was still at home.  He described prison as an existential experience, where it became your life and your own protestations of innocence or rectitude did not matter.  He described work on the road gang at age 44, and having to learn to protect himself socially.
  
A juror said that the conviction happened partly because there didn’t seem to be any other suspect or plausible theory other that a sexual motivation. Morton says he was put in a position of having to “prove a negative”, which the legal standard is supposed to be proof beyond reasonable doubt.  But at the time the jury had trouble seeing reasonable doubt.
  
The case broke with the examination of DNA on a bandana found near the crime scene, and apparently withheld deliberately by prosecutors.  Out of self-protection, the state of Texas resisted the challenges for years.

Morton says. "you do have to be afraid of the police.  I was completely at their mercy." The same sounds true of prosecutors.
 
Will DNA testing stop wrongful convictions?  Prosecutors are under tremendous pressure (or sense tremendous gain) from making someone pay for a crime, even if it is the wrong person but someone who seems out of touch with others.  Circumstantial evidence and eyewitness testimony can be notoriously unreliable, when there is public outrage to make punish someone-- "mob justice".  In 2012, there were a couple of films about the Central Park 5 and the West Memphis 3 (Movies, Dec 15, 2012 and Jan. 25, 2013).
Morton says he is willing to forgive. Personally, I would find it hard to play Job, but I realize that if no one were willing to, we really would slouch back toward totalitarianism. I you can't forgive, you really do own the sins of others. 

I was living in Dallas at the time but I don’t recall the publicity of this central Texas case. 

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