Carrie Bradon Mar. 16, 2016, 1:19pm


FORT WORTH – A man who served more than two decades in prison for a murder he didn't commit will be the keynote speaker at the State Bar of Texas 2016 Annual Meeting in Fort Worth in June.

Michael Morton, a Williamson County resident, was convicted of murdering his wife in 1986 and was sentenced to prison. Almost 25 years later, however, new DNA tests exonerated him of the crime and implicated another man. 

Since his time in prison, Morton has written a book about his experience, titled Getting Life: An Innocent Man’s 25-Year Journey from Prison to Peace: A Memoir, and his experience was also the focus of An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story, a documentary.

Morton's case was a highly influential one, resulting in the Texas Legislature passing the Michael Morton Act, which effectively revolutionized the approach toward criminal cases in the state. Among the changes were the handling of open-file discoveries.

The presence of Morton at this legal event certainly says something about the desire for legal transparency in Texas.

“We chose Mr. Morton as a keynote for this year’s meeting because he is an engaging speaker whose story we believe our members will want to hear firsthand,” Brad Parker, State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting Committee co-chair, told the Southeast Texas Record.

Parker believes that there is much to be learned from Morton’s experiences and that his tragedy can help to remind individuals that justice is always the most important goal.

When asked what the bar stands to gain from inviting Morton to speak, Parker commented.

“The committee strives to select speakers who reflect a variety of areas of law and Mr. Morton’s case, which resulted in the Michael Morton Act of 2013, is relevant for all criminal law practitioners and of interest to all members,” he said.

The prosecutor in the case, Ken Anderson, presented no witnesses or physical evidence that showed Morton was at the scene of the crime, but Morton was still found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.  

After Morton was exonerated of the crime, the Texas Supreme Court determined that Anderson, who had gone on to become a judge, violated criminal laws by concealing evidence in the case. He entered a plea to criminal contempt and served 10 days in jail, along with resigning from his position as a district court judge and surrendering his law license.

Parker spoke of the wide-reaching influence of Morton’s case, saying, “Mr. Morton’s story is well known, but his personal message continues to resonate with people everywhere.”

The annual meeting is June 16 and 17 at the Fort Worth Omni and Convention Center. Morton's speech will take place at the Bar Leaders Recognition Luncheon on June 16. 

For additional information, contact Amy Starnes at astarnes@texasbar.com.

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