There is no question about it. Americans — and, in fact, people all over the world — commit horrible crimes and atrocities each and every day, and sometimes the sheer levels of cruelty, apathy, and barbarism can be unfathomable. With innocent children or beloved husbands and wives, or brothers and sisters murdered in cold blood, it can be more than understandable to want justice and retribution. Some juries, however, are too eager to convict someone — anyone. And this can leave an innocent person serving years of their life in jail unfairly and unnecessarily. That’s exactly what happened to accused murderer Michael Morton.
Nearly three decades ago, an unidentified person killed Morton’s wife, Christine, in the family’s home. Morton was actually at work at the time of the murder on August 12, 1986. That didn’t stop police from arresting him, and it did not stop a jury from convicting him of murder. “There was no scientific evidence, there was no eyewitness, there was no murder weapon, there was no believable motive,” Morton tells CNN. Even worse, the married couple had a three year old son, Eric. During his 25 years in prison, Morton was only able to see him roughly twice a year.
That’s where criminal appeals attorneys come in. The lack of evidence and flimsy conviction generated nation-wide interest, and several criminal appeals lawyers and appellate attorneys offered to work on his case pro bono. What they found was shocking.
True, jurors convicted Morton in unlikely circumstances, but the prosecutor, Ken Anderson, kept important evidence out of the courtroom. Morton’s son had witnessed another man breaking and entering their home, attacking his mother, and fleeing. The man also left a bloody bandanna at the scene. The jurors didn’t know about any of this evidence. Criminal appeals attorneys along with the U.S. Court of Appeals (AKA the federal circuit court) eventually brought these details to light, which liberated Morton after 25 years.
There are approximately 10,000 appeals reviewed by 179 U.S. Court of Appeals judges every term. Innocent men and women are convicted, even when juries have the best intentions. Michael Morton is living proof.
Speak with an appellate lawyer.