Showing posts with label Injustice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Injustice. Show all posts

Monday, 10 August 2015

Vincent Simmons: Words from an Angola Prison cell

Monday, August 10, 2015. Louisiana State Prison, Angola, LA. 3:36 pm. Today is 13,958 days since Vincent Simmons was unlawfully arrested on a quiet street in Marksville, Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana.

An innocent man, convicted of a rape he did not commit in 1977, is still behind bars nearly forty years later. Read the full story of this unbelievable miscarriage of justice here.

Below, Vincent Simmons relates, in his own words, exactly what happened to him on the fateful day he was walking down a street in Marksville.

Why was he stopped and arrested? Was he armed? No. Was he walking down the street equipped to carry out a crime? No. Was he disrespectful or aggressive to the officer who stopped him? No. Was he wanted for any crime, anywhere in the United States? No. The simple truth is that Vincent Simmons was arrested because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and, of course, he was black.

"My name is Vincent Alfred Simmons Jr. I am a black Afro-American. I am from a small town called Monsuro, Louisiana. I am innocent of the charges I was falsely arrested, charged, indicted, tried and convicted for.
On May 23rd, 1977, I was arrested in the town of Marksville, Parish of Avoyelles, State of Louisiana. I was placed in handcuffs, put in a police car and taken to Avoyelles Parish jail. Upon arriving there, I was taken to a physical lineup.
Vincent Simmons #4 - still in handcuffs!
According to the police, I was allegedly identified as a rapist. I was taken to another section of the jail, to this detective office. 
Upon arriving there, I was told by the two arresting officers that I was going to give them how I committed the crime. I told them I was not giving any statement because I didn't rape anybody.
Still in handcuffs one of the police officers hit me and knocked me to the floor and commenced to kick me. I managed to get back to my feet, and was asked if I was ready to talk. I again refused. This officer then grabbed me and I grabbed him and held him in an attempt to shield myself from further assaults. This officer's partner, who was in the room with us, called out to his partner to move.
I was pushed against the wall and when I looked up after balancing myself, I was looking down the barrel of a gun. I heard the shot and felt a burning in my chest. The shock I experienced I will never forget. I hit the floor, hollering for water to put out the fire burning in my chest.
I prayed to God not to let me die like this. I experienced my soul traveling out of my body. When I re-entered my body I was laying in a hospital room where my mother and a Catholic priest was sitting praying. When the police department found out I had survived they immediately came and transported me back to jail.
I remember talking to two white guys, who claimed to be lawyers appointed by the court. They asked me did I have $50,000 dollars. If so, they would represent me and free me at the preliminary hearing. 
I told them I didn't have that kind of money. They asked me if I wanted to plead guilty to the charges. I cursed them out and told them I didn't rape anybody. The next time I saw these two lawyers I was on trial.
I was still suffering from the gunshot wound in my chest. So that had a great effect on my thinking at the time. The lawyers really didn't talk to to me but once before the trial. The only evidence they had was the victims' testimony. And those testimonies were perjury lies.
I knew there was something wrong when the District Attorney, Assistant District Attorney and my Attorney made a motion to approach the bench. They all went up to the Judge's desk and talked in secret. Then when they walked away the Judge talked to all the officers' who were involved in the case, and had been called as witnesses, and they were released from subpoena duty.
I was subsequently "found guilty" by an all white jury, there was one alternate jury member who was black. Lies were told to the trial jury by the alleged victims and their cousin (Keith Laborde). The District Attorney asked each of them, do you see the person that raped you in the courtroom? Answer. Yes. Can you point him out? Answer. Yes. How do you know that this is the person who raped you? Answer. He told me/us his name was Simmons, while raping us."
(I'm sorry, I have to break into Vincent's story at this point to make a small point. While raping two young girls at gunpoint, the rapist said, "My name is Vincent Simmons. Just thought you'd like that snippet of information for future use - especially at my trial!" For those who have not read the main article, the original statement given to police two weeks after the alleged rapes contained no names. In fact, one of the girls said, "No, I don't know his name, he never mentioned it." That is a direct quote from the original police statement. Why was it not challenged in court? Why indeed. Let's go back to Vincent's statement.)
"The jury believed the perjured testimony. I was sentenced to 100 years, 50/50 on each charge. I was immediately transferred to the State Penitentiary. 
On my way to Angola, the two officers who were transporting me pulled off the road. Three separate times they tried to get me out of the car and run. 
Each time I refused to get out of the car. They gave up and drove me here to the prison.
When I arrived at the prison, I was placed in a maximum-security one-man cell. I had repeated nightmares of being beaten and shot by those police officers and I was still suffering from the bullet wound.The bullet was still in my back under the skin which consistently caused me excruciating pain. I made continued complaints to the doctors here at the prison before they removed the bullet from my back.
I continued to have severe nightmares because I knew I was innocent, I just needed to prove it. The only way I could do that was to find out what those police officers and the State District Attorneys had on me.
I started writing letters to officials requesting police reports, statements of victims, medical reports, pictures, arrest reports and warrants. Each time I submitted my request, I was denied. I read law books and continued to make requests for information, and the state repeatedly denied me the information I sought.
The years passed and I learned about the law. I then filed a suit in the court where I was convicted seeking access to that information. The court still denied me access saying I was not entitled to the information. I appealed that decision, which was again affirmed. I appealed to a higher court. Two years later that appeal was denied.
Then the prison officers began focusing in on me, moving me from one place to another. A form of distraction. I ended up in Camp J after being moved around and losing all my legal material. 
Ten years passed. I still didn't get my hands on the information.
I made another request to the District Attorneys office. That request was ignored. I then filed a law suit into the civil district court where I was convicted. The court ordered the District Attorney to show cause by December 7th, 1993. Before that date arrived, I received a big brown envelope from the State District Attorneys office.
What was in the envelope shocked me, and brought tears to my eyes. There was the following documents: 1. Investigative reports. 2. Police arrest reports. 3. Victim statements. 4. Arrest warrants. 5. Medical examiner's reports. 6. Line-up photos. 7. Bill of indictments."
(These documents are now in the public domain and can be downloaded and read as PDF's. They are available from  The Vincent Simmons Project. )
Medical report. (Click to enlarge)
"Nowhere in the victims' statements did they say the alleged rapist told them his name was Simmons.
The doctor said he found no bruises or scars and that one of the alleged victim's hymen was still intact. The other alleged victim had no bruises or scars, but she did have venereal disease.
The rapes were reported on May 22nd, 1977. Not even 24 hours later I was stopped, arrested, put in a line-up, allegedly identified, beaten, and then shot. There is no evidence connecting me to the crime, and nobody said Vincent Simmons did anything.
The police, the District Attorney and the alleged victims know that I am not the rapist. They are lying to protect the police who shot me, and that is attempted murder. They had no probable cause to even arrest me. They committed perjury at the trial. None of the police testified at the trial because they knew the truth would come out if they testified."
(What Vincent Simmons writes next could be considered to be a bad case of the "Conspiracy Theory Syndrome". But if you consider the overwhelming amount of evidence that came to light in 1993, proving beyond doubt that Vincent Simmons had nothing to do with the rape of the girls, the question remains. Why is he still in prison?)
"The two lawyers that were appointed to represent me were working with the state District Attorney to send me to prison so that they would cover up and protect what the police did to me. The Assistant Attorney that helped prosecutors in 1977 rose to become a Louisiana Supreme Court Justice. She is using her corrupted influence to keep my case from being heard.
These things are being done to people here in the deep south of Louisiana because there is nobody here to expose, fight or create laws and enforce those laws. There is nobody to punish politicians, law makers, court officials, District Attorneys or lawyers"
Vincent Simmons #85188  

Vincent Alfred Simmons Jr.
The Louisiana Whipping Boy. 

Pictures, information and statement courtesy of:

Vincent Simmons
Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, LA.

The Vincent Simmons Project

Saturday, 4 July 2015

The West Memphis 3: A Miscellany of Incompetence.

This article contains graphic descriptions and pictures from a murder scene.

The Murders.

Wednesday, May 5, 1993. West Memphis, Arkansas. 7:00 pm. Several neighbors see eight-year-olds, Christopher Byers, Michael Moore and Steven Branch riding their bicycles on Goodwin Avenue towards a wooded area known locally as Robin Hood Hills, where the boys often played together. On a balmy evening in West Memphis, nobody could possibly envisage the horror that is about to unfold over the next twenty-four hours.

Christopher Byers is the first boy to be reported missing. According to the police log, John Byers, Christopher's adoptive father, phones the West Memphis police at 8:08 pm and tells them his son has not returned home. A little over ten minutes later Officer Regenia Meeks arrives and interviews Byers. An initial search of the area is made but nothing is found.

Around 9:00 pm, Michael Moore's mother calls at the Byers' home and reports to Officer Meeks that her son is also missing. She tells the officer that Steven Branch was with him. With the light fading, a cursory search of the area reveals nothing. As darkness descends on West Memphis, the search is abandoned and people begin to fear the worst. Prosecutors later claim that the boys were murdered between 9:30 and 10:00 pm, which, if the timing is correct, means they were still alive while the search was going on.

John Mark Byers. 1993
The next morning the Crittenden County Search and Rescue team is called in and focuses attention on Robin Hood Hills, a dense, wooded area with a creek and a large drainage channel.

11:45 am, John Byers talks to a local news crew. "I'm scared for the safety and welfare of all three boys. And would appreciate any help anyone can give us in recovering our three boys."

Several hours into the search a boy's black shoe is found floating in shallow water. This discovery leads searchers to the bodies of the three boys, which are found in the creek. Against all crime scene protocol, police move the bodies to a shallow ditch nearby.

Following an autopsy, forensic pathologist, Frank J. Peretti, indicates that the three boys had been stripped naked, beaten and mutilated. Christopher Byers had suffered the most with lacerations to most parts of his body. He died of multiple injuries. Michael Moore and Steven Branch died of multiple injuries with drowning. Police also believed all three boys had been raped.

Two of the injuries were particularly significant. The left side of Steven Branch's face had been gouged out and Christopher Byers had been castrated. Both these injuries became focal points during the subsequent trial. In all, the autopsy revealed that the boys had sustained 146 specified injuries. The pathologist suggested that a serrated knife had been used to inflict the injuries.

Christopher Byers
All the boys were hog-tied with their own shoe laces, right ankle to right wrist, the same with their left arms and legs.

Several Items of clothing were found in the creek. Some of it had been twisted around sticks and thrust into the muddy waters in an attempt to hide it.

Police discovered that five socks and two pairs of underwear belonging to the boys were missing, leading investigators to believe that they were killed elsewhere and then dumped in the creek. However, even if the creek or ditch was not the murder scene, police recovered a significant amount of forensic evidence from this area, which, when DNA profiling became available some years later, should have led investigators to the sadistic murderers of the three young boys - unfortunately, it didn't.

The Police Investigation.

The BOLO (click to read)

At 10:38 pm, May 6, 1993, police issue what they call a 'BOLO' - Be On Look Out. Although the BOLO refers to "two white male hitchhikers in their 20's". detectives assigned to the case believe the most likely perpetrators to be sexual deviants, transients or even truckers passing through the area.

Robin Hood Hills is adjacent to a popular truck stop a little more than a block away from the murder scene. Names and credit card receipts from anybody visiting the truck stop the previous day are checked. Several transients and truck drivers are taken in for questioning; all are cleared and released without charge.

After just twenty-four hours, the investigation, led by Chief Inspector Gary Gitchell, is faltering as forensic evidence has failed to provide any real clues the investigators can use. With increasing frustration, Gitchell now orders his men to canvass more than 500 addresses in the neighborhood adjacent to Robin Hood Hills.

No significant information is uncovered.

Damien Echols. 1993
On the same day police are questioning truckers, the name of Damien Echols, an eighteen-year-old with a history of mental illness, is raised for the first time by assistant juvenile probation officer, Steve Jones.

Echols, who dresses all in black and listens to heavy metal music, is seen by West Memphis residents as a weird loner who engages in satanic rituals - an accusation which is simply untrue.

Apparently, rumors of cult activity in the West Memphis area, including satanic rituals, sexual deviancy and animal sacrifice, were being bandied about by neighborhood teenagers who had "seen things".

Steve Jones tells investigators that he himself has seen "a marked increase" in "satanic-related graffiti" in the neighborhood. He also states that Damien Echols has a tendency to violence and is "capable of murder".

It is likely that if Detective Gitchell and his men had been following up solid leads or suspects, the nonsense spouted by Steve Jones and some of the residents of West Memphis would probably have been ignored. Unfortunately, with little physical evidence, the investigators have to follow up whatever leads they can get, and, presumably, if investigating so-called satanic rituals help to solve the murders, then so be it.

Damien Echols. 1994
Within hours of Steve Jones' statement, Damien Echols is interviewed by detectives. Photographs are taken. They are looking for marks or scratches on his hands, face and torso which may indicate involvement in the murders.

There are none.

He answers all their questions, although the detectives consider some of his answers odd. This is hardly surprising as Echols has spent several months in hospitals and detention centers undergoing therapy for his many personality disorders.

With the investigation veering off in all directions, investigators begin to rely on polygraph tests (lie detectors), which are notoriously unreliable. Unfortunately, West Memphis detectives decide that if a person of interest passes the test they are dismissed as suspects. It is believed that at least one of the murderers underwent a polygraph test, passed it, and was released.

In the days that follow, Damien Echols is interviewed several times by different detectives assigned to the murder investigation. On May 10, 1993, unaccompanied by a lawyer, Echols is yet again interviewed and then subjected to a polygraph test. Investigators report that Damien "had been untruthful, and according to the polygraph, was involved in the murders".

That may well have been the police view, but, other than hearsay and rumor, investigators do not have any evidence against Damien Echols. Reluctantly, they are obliged to release him. And now they really do have problems. As each hour passes and the case grows colder, the pressure to find the murderers forces investigators into making unwise decisions.

Victoria Hutcheson. 1994
Firstly, they listen to West Memphis resident, Victoria Hutcheson, who informs them that both Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley were involved in cult activities and in the murders.

And then investigators, for reasons best known to themselves, interview Victoria's eight-year-old son, Aaron Hutcheson, who tells them he often played with the murdered boys in Robin Hood Hills and had seen men sitting in a circle singing songs to the devil and doing "what men and ladies do".

But that, apparently, was not all he saw. Aaron Hutcheson is interviewed by police on several occasions. In one interview he says he witnessed the murders but can not identify the attackers. In another interview he tells police that he saw a victim being abducted by a black man in a maroon car.

His subsequent statements become even wilder; in yet another interview he says that he was forced to participate in the murders. He then identifies John Mark Byers as the murderer until the arrest of Damien Echols whom he then identifies as the murderer. And still investigators listen to him. He is down to testify as a witness, but, unsurprisingly, he is never called to the stand.
Victoria Hutcheson is given a polygraph test which police report as being "truthful".  (She later recants her statements and testimony saying she "probably slept the night drunk on the lawn".)

Jessie Misskelley. 1993
One month after the murders, investigators interview Jessie Misskelley. Despite his low IQ (borderline intellectual functioning) and his status as a minor, he is questioned without a guardian or a lawyer present.

Against all police procedure, Misskelley is questioned for more than twelve hours, only 46 minutes of which is recorded. Eventually, he tells police what they want to hear. Despite several inconsistencies in his story police shape what they are told to fit the known facts.

In one example from the confession detectives correct Misskelley and actually tell him what he saw. In the transcript, Detective Bryn Ridge says, "Alright, we are going to correct that even further ... you were standing at the top of the bank on the west side, were you looking down at what was going on?"

Three words in brackets.
Indeed, the detective noted at the end of his report that Misskelley was "lying his ass off" during the polygraph. If he was lying his ass off, at what point did he begin telling the truth?

The confession implicates Damien Echols and 16-year-old Jason Baldwin, a schoolfriend. Despite a lack of physical evidence against any of the three boys, on June 3, 1993, Misskelley, Baldwin and Echols, are arrested and each charged with three counts of capital murder.

June 4, 1993. During a press conference following the arrests, Chief Inspector Gary Gitchell is asked how strong the case against the three boys is, rated from 1 to 10 - he unwisely replies, "Eleven."

The Trials.

August 4, 1993. A pre-trial hearing is held before Judge David Burnett in Marion, Arkansas. Judge Burnett rules that Misskelley should be tried separately. Controversially, the judge also rules that Misskelley's "confession" can be introduced by the state, even though it was obtained under coercive circumstances. He further rules that the three defendants can be tried as adults.

January 18, 1994. Jury selection in the Misskelley trial begins. It is a difficult process because most prospective jurors know all about Misskelley's "confessions", (Police record at least three different versions). Although West Memphis detectives deny having anything to do with it, the "confessions" are conveniently leaked to news media several days before jury selection begins.

Police also choose this very moment to reveal that they have discovered a serrated knife in a lake some forty-seven feet from Jason Baldwin's home. Even though forensic evidence taken from the knife does not implicate Jason Baldwin or Damien Echols in any way, (it looks similar to one Echols may have owned previously) investigators make sure that a connection between Echols and the knife is made public knowledge. Police also maintain that the lacerations and marks on the bodies of the murder victims are made specifically by this knife.

During the trial, twenty different knives are entered into evidence. Three were found near the murder scene, four were retrieved in searches, six came from suspects, six unaccounted for and one came from the lake behind Jason Baldwin's home. This final knife becomes State exhibit 77.

Judge David Burnett. 1994
Misskelley's trial begins on January 26, 1994. His defense argues that his "confession" does not match the facts of the case on key issues.

An expert witness for the defense, Dr. Richard Ofshe, testifies that the interview that leads to Misskelley's "confession" is a classic example of police coercion.

He goes on to say that the tapes sound as if the police are confessing to the murders. During the interview, leading questions containing confidential information about the murder scene, known only to the investigators, are directed at Misskelley, Graphic details, of which he has no knowledge, are provided by his interviewers.

After several hours of  persistent and relentless interrogation, he just agrees with everything investigators say and tells them what they want to hear.

Two major flaws in the confessions stand out.

Firstly, the time Misskelley says he was at the murder scene is at least three hours too early. The persistent questioning by detectives, suggesting different times to Misskelley, eventually pays off when they get him to admit to the time they believe the murders were committed.

Secondly, at the time of the Misskelley interrogation, detectives believe that the boys have been raped and ask him about that. Misskelley admits that "he watched Damien rape one of the boys". There is no forensic evidence indicating that any of the boys have been raped. DNA profiling later confirms it.

And that flawed "confession" is all the evidence the state have against the defendant. It doesn't matter. On February 5, 1994, 18-year-old Jessie Misskelley is convicted of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder. He is sentenced to life plus 40 years.

Following the trial, prosecutors apply pressure to Misskelley, (they offer him a reduced sentence of forty years for his testimony) and he agrees to testify against Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin.

He makes a statement under oath accusing Echols and Baldwin of murdering the three boys. Twenty-four hours later, he changes his mind and decides not to testify. In all, Jessie Misskelley makes five separate "confessions" to police about the West Memphis murders - and then on June 3, 1993, claims his innocence, before making his sixth and final "confession".

Juror's notes - pros and con re. Jason Baldwin
Three weeks later, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin go to trial. The prosecution has no forensic evidence that links either Echols or Baldwin to the murders.

It is suggested that the motive for the murders is "occult sacrifice" and "devil worship". Black t-shirts and heavy metal lyrics are introduced as evidence of cult tendencies.

A juror's notes - pros and cons referring to Jason Baldwin - is pictured right. It is all hearsay and speculation with not one iota of hard evidence regarding the murders.

The blacked out section contains the words "Jesse Misskelley confession" - something these jurors should not have been considering. Indeed, written next to it are the words "NO. DISCARD". Had this been known to the defense lawyers at the time they could have called for a re-trial.

Jason Baldwin. 1994
Again, the lack of hard evidence and jury coercion does not seem to matter. On March 19, 1994, Echols and Baldwin are found guilty on three counts of murder. Damien Echols is sentenced to death, Jason Baldwin receives a life sentence.

Steve Jones, the probation officer who thought Damien Echols "capable of murder", later says that he "cannot, in retrospect, accurately attribute to Baldwin any interest or association with the occult". He also acknowledges that he does not believe Jason Baldwin was involved in the murders.

As they say in Arkansas - a day late and a dollar short.

The Aftermath.

Following the trial, there is widespread criticism of the West Memphis Police Department. An attorney involved in the case states that the crime scene was contaminated from the moment the boy's shoe was found in the creek. So many different people had entered the scene that the area was "literally trampled, especially the creek bed".

The bodies are removed from the creek before the coroner arrives, making it difficult for him to determine a time of death. Police then allow the bodies to decay on the creek bank, exposing them to sunlight and insects. Investigators involved in the case also fail to control disclosure of information relating to the case. Sensitive information, vital to solving the crime, is allowed to enter into the public domain.

One attorney is quoted as saying, "Police records were a mess. To call them disorderly would be putting it mildly".

Damien Echols is held in solitary confinement and on death row for more than eighteen years. He writes the following words. "For a split second today I could smell home. It smelled like sunset on a dirt road. The world I left behind was so close I could almost touch it. Everything in me cried out for it. It's amazing how certain shades of agony have their own beauty."

State Exhibit 77 - The Lake knife
Despite numerous appeals over the years, Judge David Burnett steadfastly refuses to sanction a hearing, no matter how strong the evidence appears to be.

On 29 October, 2007, Damien Echols' defense lawyers file papers seeking a retrial or his immediate release from prison. The papers cite new DNA evidence linking Terry Hobbs (stepfather of Steven Branch) to the crime scene, Defense lawyers also have a damning statement from Hobbs' ex-wife.

Lawyers are able to show that the bodies had not been mutilated with a serrated knife. They can also prove that many of the lacerations and wounds, including the castration and the ripping of the flesh on one of the boys faces, had been caused by animals predating the bodies.

And the legal papers also reveal that bite marks on the face of one of the victims (unbelievably, not noticed until after the original trial) do not to match any of the three convicted men.

Unfortunately, this is still not good enough. Almost one year later, on September 10, 2008, Judge David Burnett denies the request for a retrial, citing the DNA tests as inconclusive.

(Interestingly, Terry Hobbs and John Mark Byers had all their teeth removed in the mid-nineties before police were able to compare bite marks to those found on the victims. Both men said they suffered from periodontal disease.  

Denis Riordan. Defense lawyer. 2010
Echols' defense lawyers, refusing to cede the case, appeal Judge Burnett's ruling to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which agrees to hear arguments in the case.

The court convenes on September 30, 2010, more than two years after the papers seeking a retrial had been filed.

Five days later, after hearing all the arguments, the Arkansas Supreme Court finally grants the West Memphis Three an evidentiary hearing in which all new evidence could be presented to the court.

And then something very strange happens. After 18 years and 78 days incarceration, the West Memphis Three are called to appear before an unexpected circuit court session - four months prior to the scheduled evidentiary hearing.

Rather than wait years for a retrial, they enter Alford guilty pleas whilst stating their innocence, in exchange for being sentenced to time served. In other words, the state tells them that the convictions are not being overturned, but plead guilty to these crimes and you walk free - today.

Scott Ellington. Prosecuting Attorney.
After denying eighteen years of appeals, refusing to review new evidence and seemingly hell bent on keeping these three wrongly convicted men incarcerated, why did the state of Arkansas suddenly change tack and go down this particular road? Can any body answer that question?

Well, one man tried. Step forward Mr. Scott Ellington, Prosecuting Attorney, 2nd Judicial District of Arkansas. What follows are his exact words transcribed from the news conference on the day the West Memphis Three were released.

Scott Ellington, "Some are happy, some are sad and some are perplexed. And that's the case at the end of every trial, and it's no different in this case. Guilt or innocence was never on the table. Today's proceedings allow the defendants to have the freedom to say that they're not guilty. But, in fact, they just pled guilty."

(That allows the state of Arkansas to have their cake and eat it. Very Clever, Mister Ellington.)

Question from the media: "Were you concerned about the evidence the defense was going to present at the upcoming evidentiary hearing, including allegations of juror misconduct?

Drawing the short straw...
Scott Ellington: "When the Supreme Court handed down this decision re-opening issues of juror misconduct and all the other matters, and on the basis of new DNA, then that causes some troubles."

(I'll bet it does, Mister Ellington)

"And this Judge was most likely, (yep, Judge Burnett has gone and he can no longer help you) and I mean we would have done the best we could with the evidence, but these defendants could most likely have been acquitted."

Of course they would have been acquitted, Mister Ellington, they were innocent of all charges. That DNA profiling is just so inconvenient at times. It is also hard to string a coherent sentence together under this pressure, isn't it?

And, of course, if they overturn this miscarriage of justice it means paying out tens of millions of dollars in compensation to the three defendants, and the real killers will have to be found. Much, much, easier this way.

18 years and 78 days later...freedom

Are the real Murderers finally uncovered?

In 2013, Billy Wayne Stewart and Bennie Guy sign affidavits detailing the circumstances surrounding the murders of  Christopher Byers, Michael Moore and Steven Branch. While the level of detail is plausible, it does beg the question as to why they wait twenty years to tell their stories. 

And, as of July, 2015, West Memphis PD have shown no interest in the affidavits.

Terry Hobbs and David Jacoby. 1993
What did Billy Wayne Stewart say happened? 

On May 5, 1993, he was driving around West Memphis in Terry Hobbs' truck with David Jacoby, Hobbs' friend, and two local teenagers, L.G. Hollingsworth and Buddy Lucas.

(In the days following the murders, Terry Hobbs, stepfather to Steven Branch, is interviewed by detectives and passes a polygraph test. Some years later, DNA profiling links both him and David Jacoby to the murder scene. Police decide it is inconclusive.) 

On the day in question, they are drinking whiskey and smoking pot. It seems that Terry Hobbs is bi-sexual, with a preference for sex with young boys. At some point they reach Robin Hood Hills and Hobbs, Jacoby, Hollingsworth and Lucas go into the woods and engage in homosexual activity. It is at this point that the three boys appear on their bikes. Hobbs shouts, "Get them little fuckers."

Terry Hobbs. 2011
While Jacoby beats one of the boys, Hobbs orders Hollingsworth and Lucas to pull off the boy's pants. Hobbs then cuts the boy's genitals before announcing that the other two boys have to be killed because of what they have seen.

Hobbs and Jacoby kill all three boys. Their clothes and bodies are thrown into the creek, their bicycles dumped in the drainage channel.

Bennie Guy's affidavit tells a similar story with a few added details. Apparently, Terry Hobbs becomes enraged when one of the boys kicks him. Hobbs beats the boy around the head and says,"I'm going to teach your fucking ass."

Guy's account confirms that Terry Hobbs cuts the genitals of one of the boys with a knife before dumping the body in the creek

Bennie Guy also states in his affidavit, that he sent a detailed letter to Prosecutor, Scott Ellington, (yes, that's the same Scott Ellington who can't string a coherent sentence together) explaining the whole scenario. Guy says Mister Ellington never responded.

Is anybody surprised?

And that's it. 4000 words, and still no conclusion. 
Let's hope the perpetrators of this crime burn in perpetuity.


Christopher, Michael and Steven

 Three tragically unfulfilled lives.

* * *

Information and pictures courtesy of:

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory. Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky. (HBO)

University of Missouri - Kansas City.

The Daily Mail (UK)

Martin David Hill 

Arkansas Judiciary

Arkansas Supreme Court

Office of the Arkansas Attorney-General

West Memphis Police Department

Monday, 9 February 2015

Kevin Lee Green: Semper fidelis*

Sunday, September 30, 1979. Tustin, Orange County, California. 01:05 am. 21-year-old Marine Corporal Kevin Lee Green leaves his home shortly after one o'clock in the morning. He has been arguing with his 20-year-old wife, Dianna, who is in the ninth month of her pregnancy.

This was not the couple's first argument. Tustin police had intervened on several occasions when arguments had escalated to physical confrontations.

On this particular Sunday morning Kevin decides to defuse the situation by going out and getting a couple of burgers from the local Jack in the Box. However, instead of going to the outlet across the street from his apartment, he drives to a Jack in the Box more than fifteen minutes away.

This spur of the moment decision will change his life forever.

At 01:35 am, warm burgers in hand, Kevin arrives back at his apartment. His first concern is that the door to the apartment is ajar. He enters and calls out Dianna's name. The only noise he can hear is what he later describes as a snorting or snoring sound coming from the bedroom. He enters the bedroom to find his wife lying on the bed among a tangle of blood-stained sheets.

Dianna Green had been raped, strangled and hit on the forehead with a blunt object. At first, Kevin thinks his wife has been shot in the head, but it later turns out that the object she was hit with contained a nail or a bolt which caused a bullet-like entry wound to the middle of her forehead.

Kevin checks to see if his wife is still alive. She is. Barely. Police and ambulance arrive within minutes and Dianna is transported to hospital. Doctors detect a faint fetal heartbeat, but Dianna's head injuries are so severe doctors believe that an immediate caesarean section would endanger the lives of both mother and baby. Twenty-four hours later, doctors remove a baby girl from Dianna, but are unable to save her. Dianna lapses into a coma.

Kevin remains by her side.

With very little evidence recovered from the crime scene and no signs of a forced entry to the apartment, police investigators zero in on Kevin Green as the prime suspect. They ask him about the volatile nature of his marriage to Dianna. Had he ever struck his wife during an argument?

Yes. They were both responsible for physical confrontations, but they were now trying to reconcile their differences and Kevin hoped that the arrival of their baby girl would help the marriage recover.

On the night Dianna was attacked did she deny him sex?

Yes. But it wasn't a big issue.

Nevertheless, did they argue about that?


What did they argue about?

Something and nothing. It was just a trivial argument. One of many.

They don't believe him. Police investigators are relentless. The questioning goes on for several hours. They are convinced Kevin brutally attacked his wife after losing control. They think he raped her and then bludgeoned her with a piece of wood. Unfortunately, there is no direct evidence, and the detectives have no other suspects.

The young Marine doesn't realize it, but the circumstantial evidence is piling up against him.

They ask him if he attacked his wife after losing his temper. No, he didn't. Did he rape her? Absolutely not. Kevin remains calm and answers every question thrown at him. Police are becoming frustrated. They believe that he didn't use the local Jack in the Box across the street from his apartment, but chose to drive to one fifteen minutes away to create a timing alibi. Conveniently, they say, he was gone for more than half an hour, rather than the couple of minutes it would have taken to cross the street, thereby giving an "intruder" time to enter the apartment and attack Dianna.

Kevin disagrees. He says he didn't use the local Jack in the Box because the drive through was backed up. He also says that the short drive to the second outlet gave him time to clear his head. He wasn't upset or angry. He was, in fact, quite calm.

Detectives ask Kevin if he knows of anybody else who might be responsible.

No. But he did see a black man in the parking lot close to his apartment around the time he left to get the burgers. He saw the same man about to get into a van when he returned. The man appeared to hide his face as he passed him. Unfortunately, Kevin gives police a generic description that could fit any young black man. Investigating detectives do not believe him, but with no hard evidence they are unable to charge him.

The investigation grinds to a halt.

Several weeks after the attack, Dianna is released from the hospital. Still traumatized, she refuses to return to her apartment and moves in with her parents.

Dianna has sustained severe brain damage which affects her memory. She also struggles to string a sentence together and requires constant medical care, which includes extensive speech therapy sessions.

Despite suffering severe memory loss, just three months into her recovery, Dianna drops a bombshell. She contacts police and tells them she has now remembered what happened the night she was attacked. She tells detectives that she was beaten and raped by her own husband, Kevin.

Police immediately arrest Kevin Green and charge him with assault with a deadly weapon and the second degree murder of his still-born daughter. He is taken into custody, but it will be almost a year before the case comes to trial. Despite accusing her husband of battery and rape, it appears that Dianna is still suffering from amnesia and aphasia - a loss or impairment of the power to use or comprehend words.

Kevin's trial begins on October 2, 1980. The case rests upon the testimony of his wife as the prosecution offers no corroborative evidence. Dianna Green's testimony is almost incoherent and she struggles to spell her own last name for the court record.

Kevin Green's defense team, shocked by Dianna's condition, request that an independent psychiatrist evaluate her mental state.

The request is denied.

Dianna testifies that she and Kevin got into a fight when she refused him sex because of her pregnancy. Neighbors remember hearing the couple fighting on the night of the attack. It is also noted that the couple had heated arguments on numerous occasions during their seven-month marriage. Dianna tells the court that Kevin hit her with a key retractor which caused the blunt trauma injuries to her head, and then he raped her. The prosecution use Dr Martin Brenner, a psychiatrist, to confirm that Dianna Green is a reliable witness.

The prosecution present forensic evidence suggesting that Dianna was brutally raped and produce semen samples found at the scene. Unfortunately, DNA profiling will not become available for another seven years so the sample cannot be used to link anybody to the crime. The only evidence that in any way connects Kevin Green to the crime is his wife's testimony, and it is very persuasive.

The jury deliberates for ten hours, and on November 7, 1980, Kevin Lee Green is found guilty of the second degree murder of his unborn child, the attempted murder of his wife, and assault with a deadly weapon. He is sentenced to 15 years to life.

Kevin is incarcerated in Soledad Prison where he continues to proclaim his innocence. He requests and passes a polygraph test. It makes no difference.

In 1982, two years into his sentence, his appeal reaches the district court. The conviction is affirmed. Kevin petitions the Supreme Court of the State of California but gets no response.

By 1984, knowing he is innocent but with appeals and petitions going nowhere, he is on the brink of suicide. His lowest moment comes when he learns that he is to be dishonorably discharged from the USMC. Discharged Marines are ineligible for any veterans benefits and often encounter difficulty in securing gainful civilian employment. It is the final blow. Kevin remembers the moment he decided to accept his situation. 'I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't keep fighting,' he recalls. 'It dawned on me that I needed to get on with my life.'

He studies computers and earns a degree.

Kevin continues to maintain his innocence, but over the years he becomes a model prisoner. He works as a warden's secretary, giving tours of the prison to college students and organizing Christmas parties. Jerry Smith, spokesman at Soledad Prison said, 'Kevin had a very good rapport with both inmates and staff and it was built on respect,'

In early 1991, after serving eleven years Kevin is eligible for parole. As he refuses to admit guilt, his parole application is refused. In the years that follow, he is denied parole a further three times. His sister tells him, 'If all they want you to say is you did it, go ahead."

Kevin quickly realizes that he is never going to admit to something he didn't do, even if he has to serve out the full sentence. 'I never considered admitting guilt as a possibility.'

In 1996, after serving 16 years, Kevin's luck changes. Detectives from Tustin and Costa Mesa are working on a batch of unsolved murders which go back as far as the seventies. They link the killings and sexual assaults against several women aged between 17 and 31 to a single perpetrator, named as former Marine, Gerald Parker, also know to police as the 'Bludgeon Killer'. With DNA profiling now available detectives discover that the semen sample found at Kevin Green's apartment also matches the DNA of Gerald Parker. They have their man.

Fortunately, Parker is incarcerated in a local prison and detectives quickly set up an interview with him to discuss the twenty murders they have linked to him.

Although confronted with irrefutable evidence, Parker refuses to cooperate until detectives mention the Kevin Green case. Parker tells detectives that as a former Marine himself it has always bothered him that he did this to a fellow Marine.

Apparently, being in the USMC for seven years was the only good thing he ever did in his life. He offers a full confession.

Gerald Parker was the black youth that Kevin Green saw loitering outside the apartment on the night of the attack.

In his testimony to an Orange County Grand Jury, Parker said, 'Out of all the murders and the crimes that I committed over the years that was the one that bothered me the most.'

He is sentenced to death. As of February 9, 2015, he is still on death row awaiting execution. With California suspending capital punishment for an indefinite period, it is more than likely that Gerald Parker will eventually face a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Kevin Green was released on June 6, 1996. Unfortunately, his nightmare still wasn't over. While he was in prison, his former wife, Dianna, sued him for wrongful death and won a multi-million dollar payout.
Kevin had the judgement overturned and after receiving $650,000 in compensation, he gave Dianna $50,000 for the legal fees she had incurred whilst suing him.

Despite the DNA evidence and Gerald Parker's confession, Dianna still insists that her husband was in some way involved. While she concedes that he may not have struck the 'final' blow she still says that Kevin raped and beat her that night and got everything he deserved. She also says that if Kevin had not left the door open when he went out none of this would have happened.

For his part, Kevin feels that while he lost sixteen years of his life it was nothing compared to the damage Dianna suffered during this ordeal. She has lost most of her hearing, most of her sense of smell, and has trouble writing or articulating a thought. Despite her continuing animosity towards him, Kevin Green has consistently excused his former wife's attitude, accusations and actions over the years. He understands that she is angry, frustrated and bitter and concedes that she was as much a victim of the system as he was.

One of the first things Kevin did after his release was to visit the grave of his unborn daughter to tell her that he did not kill her.

He moved to Missouri to be closer to his family and has since remarried. In the years since his release he has spent much of his time talking to law classes and criminal justice conventions about his case. He hopes that prosecutors and investigators will focus more on the facts rather than trying to achieve unrealistic targets.

To this day, Kevin Green believes that well-intentioned family members and investigators planted suspicions in his ex-wife's head. It was these false memories that cost him sixteen years of his life.

Dianna D'Aiello and Kevin Lee Green

Victims of the system

Information and pictures courtesy of:

On the case with Paula Zahn: 'Painful Memories'

Los Angeles Times

Tustin Police Department

*Semper fidelis 

(Always faithful)
Motto of United States Marine Corp

Friday, 10 October 2014

Michael Morton: The Man Who lost 9000 Yesterdays.

August 13, 1986
 Day 1

9114 Hazelhurst Drive, Austin, Texas
Michael Morton is trying his best not to wake his wife, Christine, and their 3-year-old son, Eric. It is 05:30 on a warm Wednesday morning in Austin, Texas, and Michael is about to leave for work. It appears to be the start of another unremarkable day, just like every other working day.

Except it isn't.

On this particular day, 32-year-old Michael Morton's life will change forever - he just doesn't know it yet. After leaving a note for Christine, he gently closes the front door and heads to the Safeway store in Austin where he works as a Pharmacy Manager.

The previous day had been his birthday and he was still annoyed that Christine had not been as attentive as he felt she should have been. In the note he leaves propped against a vanity mirror in the bathroom, he mentions how he feels. He also writes "I-L-Y" (I love you) on the bottom of the note, and signs it "M".

After a half-hour journey through the sparse early morning traffic, Michael arrives at the store and punches his time card at 06:05 am. During the eight hour shift none of the staff notice anything different about Michael. Although he is an introverted individual, he also has an innate calmness about him and rarely shows signs of stress. Co-workers later recall that his attitude and demeanor appeared to be normal.

Michael clocks off around 2:00 pm and heads to the mall to shop for some personal items before making his way to pick up Eric from the babysitter. He arrives at Mildred Redden's house around 3:30 pm to be told that Christine never arrived that day. Concerned that his wife and child may have had an accident, Michael phones his home. He hears a man's voice he does not recognize.

Sheriff Jim Boutwell, 1987
Williamson County Sheriff, Jim Boutwell, has answered the phone. It is a tense moment. A short, highly charged conversation between the two men ensues. The sheriff politely refuses to answer any questions and asks Michael to return home immediately.

Fifteen minutes later, the neighbors, gathered on their front porches in Hazelhurst Drive, watch as Michael's car screeches to a halt outside number 9114. They see him move past the crime scene tape surrounding the house, sprint across the lawn and try to push his way inside. He is stopped by two uniformed officers.

After identifying himself to Boutwell, Michael asks if his son is okay.

"He's fine. He's at the neighbors," Boutwell answers, slightly puzzled. He wonders why that was the first question. Surely, the first question should have been about Christine.

"How about my wife?" asks Micheal.

The Sheriff slowly shakes his head and answers the question in a flat monotone. "She's dead."

Earlier in the day, a deputy sheriff had responded to a neighbor's phone call reporting 3-year-old Eric wandering around the front yard wearing only a shirt and a diaper. Before the police arrived, the neighbor had gone into the Morton's house looking for Christine. She found the battered body lying on the bed next to a wall splattered with blood. Christine had been bludgeoned to death with a blunt object.

Sgt Don Wood, 1987
Now, nearly three hours later, several scenes of crimes officers are combing through the house searching for clues. A police photographer is taking photographs of Christine's body, still lying in the bedroom.

Leading a strangely subdued Michael into the kitchen, Boutwell reads him his Miranda rights and then introduces him to lead prosecutor Sergeant Don Wood. After just fifteen minutes of questioning, both officers are convinced that Michael Morton is guilty of his wife's murder.

In the weeks, months and years that follow, they will steadfastly refuse to consider any other suspects.

Less than three hours into the investigation, both officers have read the note left by Michael and have both concluded that the motive for murder was his anger. He was refused sex, struck his wife and then lost control. The officers' initial suspicions are raised by Michael's apparent lack of emotion. He appears to be taking his wife's murder very calmly.

As forensic officers dissect the crime scene, no sign of a break-in is evident and robbery as a motive for the murder is ruled out; several items of jewelry and other valuables are still lying on the dresser in full view. However, one important piece of information is withheld from Michael Morton.

Christine's purse is missing.

The questioning continues for most of the afternoon and into the late evening. Michael does not request an attorney and answers, openly and without hesitation, every question put to him. After several hours of questioning, Michael loses his temper. "I didn't kill my wife," he shouts at the two lawmen. "Are you fucking crazy?"

 Although the prime suspect, Michael Morton is not arrested for murder. Not yet.

August 14, 1986
Day 2

The next day, one of Michael Morton's neighbors, Orin Holland, who lived a block north on Amanda Drive, stops a sheriff's deputy to report something unusual. A man had been seen parking a green van on the wooded lot behind the Mortons' home on several occasions prior to the murder. The same man had been seen wandering in the overgrown area surrounding the Mortons' privacy fence.

Later that evening an investigating officer calls on Orin Holland. "His purpose was not to ask us questions about what we had seen, but to reassure us that we weren't in any danger," Holland recalls. "He didn't overtly say, 'we know who did it,' but he implied that this was not a random event. The suggestion was that the husband did it."

Another neighbor called the sheriff's office to report sighting the green van on the morning Christine Morton was murdered. "We kept waiting for the police to call us but they never did. We figured the evidence led them in another direction."

Christine Morton's brother, John Kirkpatrick, finds a blood-stained bandana near the murder scene and gives it to Sheriff Jim Boutwell. Kirkpatrick thinks it is an important piece of evidence. The police do not. Nobody from the sheriff's office ever contacts Kirkpatrick and the area behind the Morton's house is never searched.

The medical examiner's report offers no respite for Michael Morton. An analysis of the partially digested food in Christine's stomach reveals time of death to be between 01:00 am and 06:00 am - a timing which places Michael at the murder scene around the time of death.

The ME also reports that Christine was not raped. if the motive was neither rape nor robbery - what was the motive?

August 15, 1986
Day 3

The Jewel Box store in San Antonio calls the police to report that someone appears to have fraudulently used Christine Morton's credit card. The San Antonio police department informs Williamson County Sheriff's Office and sends them the details. 
Sheriff Boutwell and Sergeant Wood are unmoved by this information. No action is taken.

August 24, 1986
Day 12

Eric Morton, 1986
Rita Kirkpatrick, Christine's mother, contacts Sergeant Don Wood with what she believes is vital information. She says that 3-year-old Eric saw the murder. "Eric and I were alone at my house...the first time he and I had been alone since his mother's death."

She tells Wood that she wrote down everything Eric said. She reads her exchange with the boy:

Eric: Mommie's crying. She's - stop it. Go away.

Rita: Why is she crying?

 'Cause the monster's there.

What's he doing?

He hit Mommie. He broke the bed.

Then what happened?

The monster threw a blue suitcase on the bed. He's mad...

Was he big?


Did he have on gloves?

Yeah. Red.

What did he carry in his red gloves?


What was in the basket?


(The boy's account matches the murder scene perfectly. Wood chips found in Christine's hair suggested she had been beaten with a piece of wood. A blue suitcase and a wicker basket were found on top of her body.)

Where was Daddy, Eric? Was daddy there?

No. Mommie and Eric was there.

(Sergeant Wood listens to this account and takes the transcript. He fails to ask any relevant questions and at one point tries to convince Rita that the "monster" Eric refers to is actually Michael wearing his scuba diving gear. This transcript was then filed away and never offered as exculpatory evidence to the defense.)

September 9, 1986
Day 28

Williamson County Sheriff's Office
Michael Morton is questioned at length by Sergeant Wood and Sheriff Boutwell at the sheriff's office. He provides samples of his hair, saliva and blood and gives permission for his car to be searched.

On the same day he also passes two lie detector tests.

No physical evidence is ever found that ties Michael to Christine's murder. In fact, the evidence found up to this point should have ruled him out as a suspect. Unfortunately, the two investigating officers are so convinced of Michael's guilt they refuse to accept they may have the wrong man. 

Later that day, Sergeant Wood tells a local newspaper, The Hill Country News, that fingerprints found near the murder scene had no connection to the killing. (It is later discovered that these fingerprints were found on a door inside the Morton's house.) He also dismisses a blood-stained item (he is referring to the bandana found by John Kirkpatrick, although he does not state that specifically) which he believes to be the result of a minor accident that may have occurred on the building site.

September 25, 1986
Day 44

Boutwell and Wood arrest Michael Morton at his home. They arrive unannounced. With no warning of his impending arrest Michael has no time to arrange child care for Eric, who once again, is pulled from his father's arms and given to a neighbor.

Michael looks at his young son and then back at the officers, "You've got to be kidding me," he says.

The child becomes hysterical as he watches his father being led away in handcuffs. Having lost his mother, he now loses his father.

February 9, 1987
Day 181

The first day of the trial. Michael Morton glances to his right and studies the faces of the twelve jury members. Two rows of blank faces stare back at him. He can almost feel them making their initial assessment of him.

He takes a deep breath and stares straight ahead.

Nothing is ever guaranteed in a court of law, but Michael knows that his defense attorney, Bill Allison, is cautiously optimistic that the lack of hard evidence will lead the jury to acquit. The evidence available to the prosecution is weak and mostly circumstantial.

But Williamson County District Attorney, Bill Anderson, the lead prosecutor, has other ideas. He ignites an emotional bonfire that engulfs Michael Morton. Firstly, he paints a picture of marital disharmony in the Morton household. Several witnesses testify that Michael's marriage is unhappy. He's portrayed as a bully and petty tyrant who hated his wife. One member of the jury later recounts that, "after listening to several witnesses, I was disgusted with Michael Morton's attitude. I'm assuming the entire jury felt that way too. Whether he was a murderer or not, I knew that I did not like him."

Williamson County DA, Bill Anderson
Bill Anderson now has everybody's attention. He insinuates that Michael Morton treated his wife with contempt and casts him as a sexual deviant.

The prosecutor rips into the jury with a lurid story of perverse violence; his voice cracks as he pounds his fist into his hand and weeps, the tears rolling down his cheeks.

He portrays the mild-mannered Pharmacy manager as a sexually dysfunctional, murderous psychopath. It is a bravura performance worthy of Broadway.

The jury is told that Michael Morton battered his wife to death with a wooden club and them masturbated over the dead body. The whole courtroom is stunned.

A story that belonged in the pages of a dime novel has swayed the jury. Unfortunately, none of it is true.

Texas statute requires law enforcement officers, if they take the stand, to turn over their reports and notes to the defense. Sheriff Jim Boutwell's report consisted of a couple of pages of handwritten notes containing virtually no information about his investigation. A major homicide investigation, and there was nothing there.

Sgt Don Wood
In fact, exculpatory evidence which included details about the intruder seen behind the Morton's house, the bloodied bandana, unidentified footprints and fingerprints found at the murder scene, Eric's revelations about the "monster" and the fraudulent use of Christine Morton's credit card in San Antonio was withheld by the prosecution. All of this evidence was contained in Sergeant Don Wood's investigation notes. Wood was never called to the stand, so he didn't have to turn his report over to the defense.

(With regard to the fraudulent use of the credit card, Williamson County sheriff's office never acknowledged the San Antonio police report. In a file discovered twenty-five years later, a Williamson County deputy sheriff dismissed the theory that Christine's purse had been stolen by the murderer with the words, "''Course we know better.")

Also withheld from the defense were unidentified fingerprints found on a sliding glass door at the Morton's house and on the blue suitcase left beside Christine's body. Only the sheriff's office and the district attorney's office knew about this evidence and they had no intention of ruining their case by giving it to the defense. With two unreliable law enforcement officers and a compliant judiciary system lined up against him, Michael Morton didn't stand a chance.

February 17, 1987
Day 189

The final day of the trial. The jury is out for less than two hours. One jury member later says, "eleven of us were ready to convict at the start. I was certain of his guilt."

The guilty verdict is read out and Michael has to be supported by his attorney. As the judge sentences him to life in prison, Michael rests his head on the defense table. "Your Honor, I didn't do this. That's all I can say. I did not do this."

Michael is moved to Huntsville diagnostic center, where he will remain for several weeks. On arrival he is ordered to strip and then ushered into the communal shower. He's allocated a prison number and his photograph is taken. Herded into the mess hall under the impatient eyes of the guards, he hurriedly eats a prison meal, the first of many.

Eventually, he is assigned a cell. At the ten-thirty lights out, he lays on his bunk listening to the cacophony of sounds reverberating around the cell block. What does the future hold? Michael knows he is innocent, but how does he prove it? And how long will it take? With a wry smile, he quickly realizes that the one thing he has... is time.

Lots of it.

January 13, 1988
Day 519
Debra Baker is savagely bludgeoned to death with a wooden club in her North Austin home. It is less than 12 miles from where Christine Morton was murdered. Despite the similarities, police fail to connect the two murders. The murdered woman leaves behind a grieving husband and two small children.

March 22, 1990
Day 1318

Michael Morton, 1987
Michael Morton files an application for a writ of habeas corpus and requests testing on the bedsheets from the murder scene.

Williamson County DA's office opposes the motion.

When Christine's body was discovered, the blinds were drawn and she was still wearing her nightdress. Michael believes his wife was killed a short time after he left for work at 0530 am on that Wednesday morning.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals grants the testing on the bedsheets, which reveals Morton's semen. This apparently corroborated what the prosecution had alleged in court - that Michael had indeed masturbated over the corpse of his wife.

What they do not say is that the sample also contains Christine's vaginal fluid. This is not revealed because it confirms a truth the Williamson County DA's office would rather not hear. In the days before the murder the Morton's had had consensual sex, a rather different scenario than that put forward by the prosecution.

In any event, the application is denied.

March 2, 2001
Day 5316

Eric Michael Morton
Michael hits rock bottom. He receives a letter informing him that his son, Eric, has decided to change his name. It is the worst day of Michael's life. "Nothing before this did it - not Christine's murder, not my arrest, not my trial, not my conviction, nothing. Eric was what I had been holding on to. He was the reason I was trying to prove my innocence. There was a hollow, empty feeling, because getting out had never been the goal. It was getting out so that I could tell Eric, 'Look, see? I didn't do this."

Michael realizes that reconciliation with his son is now not a possibility. "This wasn't just another difficult thing to overcome, this was the end. This was death.

January 2, 2002
Day 5622

Williamson County DA, John Bradley
Ken Anderson, the Williamson County DA, becomes a state judge after being appointed to the bench by Governor Rick Perry. Perry appoints Anderson's first assistant, John Bradley, as district attorney.

Bradley continues to oppose all motions regarding Michael Morton. He also stonewalls all attempts to test DNA samples obtained at the Morton murder scene.

He will also oppose parole for Michael Morton saying that Michael and his attorneys, "are grasping at straws," in their search for a "mystery killer."

The only conclusion to be drawn from John Bradley's actions is that he was aware of Wood's, Boutwell's and Anderson's unethical use of exculpatory evidence in the Morton case and he was attempting to protect them.

February 11, 2005
Day 6785

Under Texas' post-conviction DNA law, Michael Morton requests testing on several items from the crime scene, including the bandana and fingernail scrapings from Christine and the evidence from the unsolved murder of Debra Baker near the Mortons' home.

Williamson County DA John Bradley opposes the testing. Asked why they oppose these tests a spokesman for the DA's office says, "It would muddy the waters."

Michael is informed that it may take some time. It is the first time somebody has actually told him the truth.

August 15, 2006
Day 7308
Eighteen months later. The trial court in Williamson County grants testing on some items, including the fingernail scrapings, but denies testing on the bandana and the evidence from the Debra Baker murder.

February 2, 2007
Day 7494

John Bradley, 2007
After serving the first third of a sixty-year sentence Michael is eligible for parole.

John Bradley, Williamson County DA, opposes it. He writes to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. "I am writing to protest parole (for Michael Morton) and request that you put off reconsiderations of parole for as long as the law permits."

The DA's excuse for writing to the Parole Board is that Michael Morton never accepted responsibility for Christine's murder. Which was correct. Michael tells his parents that he is unrepentant and that he will not lie to get out. "My innocence," he says, "is all I have."

Parole is denied.

When John Bradley receives notice from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice that parole has been denied to Michael Morton somebody scrawls the word "Victory" across the bottom of the letter.

March 17, 2008
Day 7888
Nineteen months later. DNA tests ordered in August 2006 on swabs, nightgown and hair are completed. The results are found to be inconclusive. Only Christine's DNA is found, and the court finds that Michael Morton cannot be excluded as the murderer. 
Michael Morton has finally run out of appeals. He has nowhere else to go. His release date is February 18, 2047. He will be 92-years-old.

January 8, 2010
Day 8550

Justice Alan Waldrop 2010
The 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin unexpectedly reverses a previous judgment and allows DNA testing on the bandana found by John Kirkpatrick behind his sister's house.

After considering all the facts available to him, Justice Alan Waldrop suggests that there is a trail of evidence that connects the bandana to the crime scene. "If the bandana contains Christine's blood, it is sufficient by itself to establish a trail."

The blood on the bandana is now nearly 24-years-old. Michael Morton's attorneys do not have high hopes. They believe the DNA may have degraded beyond what is permissible for testing.

Once again, DA John Bradley intervenes and tries to stop the test. He is overruled.

June 30, 2011
Day 9088

Orchid Cellmark, the forensic testing firm, issues a report that confirms biological material on the bandana belongs to Christine Morton and another man who is not Michael Morton.

When Michael's lawyers tell him the good news, he doesn't remember the exact words but recalls that he was, "bouncing off the walls."

His lawyers tell him it is not over yet as they believe John Bradley will fight them all the way. Even if Michael's conviction is overturned, the DA could order a retrial. Years of appeals could follow. What they really need is a match to the unknown man's DNA found on the bandana. With millions of profiles of people with convictions stored on the FBI national database, it is a long shot.

August 9, 2011
Day Nine Thousand One Hundred and Twenty Eight

A match is found. The man is Mark Alan Norwood, a drifter with a long criminal record. The story now begins to fall into place. Norwood is the man with the green van, seen prowling around the Morton's privacy fence. He enters the house through an open window (his fingerprints on the glass) around 6:00 am, just after Michael had left for work. After killing Christine, he wipes his hands on the bandana and leaves. While walking back to his van the bandana slips from his back pocket.

All the evidence was there. Boutwell, Wood and Anderson just did not want to see it.

When the news breaks, the response from the Williamson County DA's office is predictable. John Bradley issues a statement. "I don't think on its face, that a DNA result on a piece of evidence away from the crime scene immediately proves innocence. It does raise some good issues that are worthy of investigation, and we will do that."

So, after 24 years they are going to do some investigating.The arrogance and hypocrisy of two law enforcement officers and two District Attorneys is breathtaking, but their case against Michael Morton is now shot to pieces.

And questions are being asked.

August 26, 2011
Day 9145

Ken Anderson, 2012
After the Morton homicide file is unsealed, Michael Morton's lawyers discover that Anderson did not provide all the reports as was ordered. Although the file contains six pages of preliminary reports, it excludes the Kirkpatrick phone transcript, the reports on the use of Christine Morton's credit card, a forged check and the neighbors' reports about the man in the green van.

Shortly after these revelations, the former Williamson County DA, Ken Anderson, now a state judge, holds a press conference. "As district attorney at the time, and as woefully inadequate as I realize it is, I want to apologize for the system's failure to Mr. Morton and to every other person who was adversely affected by this verdict."

With regard to the exculpatory evidence willfully withheld by Anderson, he says he is not to blameUndeterred by the truth he continues to squirm. "There have been a number of allegations made about professional conduct of the prosecutors, including me, in this case. In my heart, I know there was no misconduct whatsoever."

Most people disagree with you, Ken. You and your colleagues stitched up an innocent man, took away 24 years of his life, and knew exactly what you were doing. There's a circle in hell reserved just for you.

Dante was right about lawyers.

October 4, 2011
Day 9184

October 5, 2011
Day 1

Sheriff Jim Boutwell
Died of cancer in Austin, Texas, 1993, aged 66.

Sergeant Don Wood
Now retired and living in Austin, Texas. Claims he can't remember anything about the crime or the investigation. When pressed, he remembers something about a credit card, but can't remember what it was. Says his memory "bounces around here and there."

Former Williamson County DA, now state Judge Ken Anderson
Ken Anderson claims he did nothing wrong. Also seems to have had a lapse of memory as he claims not to remember specific details about the Morton case. In November 2013 he pleaded 'no contest' to a court order to show cause for withholding exculpatory evidence. The special court of inquiry found Anderson "in criminal contempt of court." 
For his part in sending an innocent man to prison for 24 years, Ken Anderson was fined $500, received 500 hours of community service and had his law license revoked. 
The Innocence Project said, "It is an extremely rare instance, and perhaps the first time, that a prosecutor has been criminally punished for failing to turn over exculpatory evidence."

Former Williamson County DA, John Bradley
Was voted out of office in 2012. Many voters were appalled at how much time and taxpayers money he devoted to opposing Michael Morton's appeals and requests for DNA testing. A local blogger, Lou Ann Anderson, wrote this about John Bradley, "adjust the facts as needed, feign respectability, stick to talking points, and, above all else, protect your friends and associates." 
In the months leading up to the election, his critics tie bandanas to his political signs.

 Mark Alan Norwood
March 20, 2013
Day 9717
58-year-old, Alan Norwood, was found guilty of the murder of Christine Morton and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. He was also indicted for the murder of Debra Baker. 

Michael Morton
Michael Morton received $2 million compensation from the state of Texas. He donated part of his compensation to a prison ministry that had helped him during his imprisonment. 
Michael was reunited with his son Eric in November 2011. During their first meeting Michael discovered he had a granddaughter. When he was told her name he cried for the first time in 24 years.  
Eric had named his daughter...Christine.

 Information and pictures courtesy of:

Daily Mail (UK)


The Innocence Project

Texas Monthly

An Innocent Man
Pamela Colloff

National Public Radio (

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice

The FBI - San Antonio office

Williamson County District Attorney's Office