One of the most recent, controversial and precedent setting cases to hit the public eye in the last few years is that of Michael Morton, who was released in 2011 after DNA evidence from a bandana found near the murder matched that of convict Mark Alan Norwood. Not only is his case a good example of an overzealous investigation and prosecution, it sheds crucial light on tried and true police procedures and might just be the first case in which the prosecutor has been punished for withholding evidence.
The Crime, Trial and Conviction
The day after Michael Morton's 32nd birthday, he was at work while his wife was murdered. Despite this, and the fact that none of his co-workers reported him as acting strange in any way, he was settled on as the number one suspect and arrested. The prosecutors claimed that the Medical Examiner pronounced a time of death of approximately 1:30 am at which time Michael was definitely home with his wife. With this 'mountain' of evidence, Prosecutor Ken Anderson decided that Michael and his wife had been out celebrating his birthday, and he became enraged when she refused to have sex with him on his birthday night. This was the best they had, and all that they ever brought to the table in terms of evidence.
Despite a purely circumstantial case against a man with no priors and no history of violence or abuse, Michael was convicted in 1987. This could have been due to the waterworks streaming down Ken Anderson's face in his closing statement or it could have been due to the fact that he withheld evidence that would have been absolutely crucial to Michael's defense. You know, things like how his 3 year old son was home at the time of the attack, described a "Monster" with red gloves and a big mustache, and said the man was not his father. Or there is the bandana that was found a mile away from the crime scene that ended up containing the DNA of both Christine Morton and the man who killed her, a man who went on to kill another innocent woman, Debra Masters Baker, just 2 years later. Neighbors also reported seeing a green van parked behind the Morton's house and a man walking off into the woods. And let us not forget the evidence that Christine's credit card and check were being used fraudulently, both while Michael was under arrest.
But none of that made it to trial.
The Exoneration, DNA,