Morton Prosecutor Says He is Victim of a Media War

Michael Morton sits beside his mother, Patricia Morton, during an emotional press conference after a judge agreed to release him on personal bond after he spent nearly 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife.
Michael Morton sits beside his mother, Patricia Morton, during an emotional press conference after a judge agreed to release him on personal bond after he spent nearly 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife.

Mike Davis, one of the original prosecutors who worked on the murder case against Michael Morton in 1987, said in court filings today that he is a victim of a media and political war between the exonerated man's lawyers and Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley.

Davis filed a motion to quash Morton's lawyers' request to interview him about his role in the trial that led to Morton's wrongful conviction and nearly 25-year imprisonment for his wife's murder. Last week, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals officially exonerated Morton after DNA evidence revealed that another man was likely responsible for the killing of Christine Morton.

Morton's attorneys — John Raley of the Houston law firm Raley & Bowlick and lawyers at the New York-based Innocence Project — allege that the Williamson County district attorney's office intentionally withheld a transcript in which Christine Morton’s mother told a sheriff's investigator that the couple’s 3-year-old son saw a "monster" who was not his father brutally attack his mother.

The defense attorneys also claim prosecutors withheld information about Christine Morton's credit card being used and a check being cashed with her forged signature days after her death.

This week, Morton's lawyers filed subpoenas to force Williamson County District Judge Ken Anderson, who was the district attorney at the time of Morton's 1987 trial, and Davis, who was an assistant district attorney, to testify and to provide documents related to the case.

Both Anderson and Davis filed motions to quash the depositions. Both claimed that the court had no jurisdiction to compel their testimony. Anderson said as a judge, he had a 43 matters on his docket, and he had a previously scheduled medical procedure on the day defense attorneys requested his presence.

Davis, now a lawyer in private practice, submitted a 17-page motion in which he objected hotly to the subpoena, writing that he "is now an innocent bystander in the crossfire" of political and media battles between the Innocence Project and Bradley.

The advocacy organization and Bradley have been at odds since he was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2009 to lead the Texas Forensic Science Commission. Bradley objected to the commission's investigation of science used to convict and eventually execute Cameron Todd Willingham for the 1991 arson fire that killed his three children. The Innocence Project, which led the charge for the Willingham investigation, sparred publicly and repeatedly with Bradley and accused him of trying to stymie the organization's efforts to improve the criminal justice system.

"The service of the subpoena in this case is just another tit for tat in the battle between these lawyers," Davis wrote. He contends the lawyers have no legal authority to question him and that they are attempting to conduct an unauthorized investigation.

Davis wrote that his recollection of the trial was "very limited after 25 years." He said he had no memory of any conversation about Morton's son seeing the killer or of any issues relating to credit cards or checks.

But in the motion, Davis offered an apology to Morton for the years he spent behind bars for a crime he did not commit, and he offered to sit down with Morton and his lawyers informally and tell them everything he remembers about the case. "Movant's words can never give back to Michael Morton his lost life, his lost wife, nor his son, and a simple apology is not sufficient but that is all Movant has to offer at this late date," Davis wrote. In a letter to Morton's lawyer, Davis asked them to withdraw the subpoena.

Further, Davis argued that Morton's lawyers' investigation of prosecutorial misconduct in the case is moot because the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has already exonerated him.

Separately, Maureen Ray, special administrative counsel for the State Bar of Texas, confirmed a report in the Austin American-Statesman today that the organization is "gathering and reviewing information" regarding allegations of misconduct in the Morton case.

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.