Michael Morton

Capital Tonight: Democrats defend stance as budget talks stall

The battle over a final budget plan continued Thursday night. Roads and education funding were major sticking points. Representative Sylvester Turner joined us to talk about where Democrats stand in the latest round of negotiations. Click the image below to hear the full interview, plus updates on the Michael Morton act and political analysis from our Capital Commentators.

Bipartisan DNA legislation clears Senate

The Texas Senate unanimously passed a bill to ensure that all evidence in death penalty cases is DNA tested before they go to trial. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) garnered support from both parties, including Attorney General Greg Abbot. Ellis and Abbot touted the legislation as a collaborative effort to create a “more fair, reliable and just Texas criminal justice system.” 

In an interview with Capital Tonight last month, Abbott said, “We need to get all that [DNA testing] done upfront, to make sure that we convict the right person, or if the DNA evidence shows the person was innocent, they are released.”

Sen. Ellis released this statement following today’s vote:

“This modest but vitally important reform will help reduce the possibility that the ultimate mistake is made with someone receiving the ultimate penalty. The fact of the matter is that we have already dodged just such a bullet thanks to advocates for the wrongfully convicted. We know that, sometimes, we get the wrong person. The Michael Morton case and dozens of examples are painful reminders of that fact. SB 1292 will ensure we avoid both the possibility of the wrong person serving years on Death Row and the far worse specter of putting to death an innocent person.”

 

Senate honors wrongfully convicted Texan

The Texas Senate honored wrongfully convicted Texan Michael Morton Wednesday.

Senate Resolution 477 recognizes Morton’s “courage and grace” during the more than two decades he was inprisoned for the death of his wife, Christine. DNA evidence recently exonerated Morton.

Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), who chairs the board for the Innocence Project, led the chamber during the recognition.

“Mr. President, members, today I have the honor of introducing an incredible man with a story of courage and perseverance most of us cannot even comprehend,” Ellis said.

He echoed the sentiments of the Dallas Morning News, which selected Morton as one of its 2012 Texans of the Year.

“Members, Mr. Morton could have harbored incredible bitterness and simply tried to rebuild his own life outside of the spotlight, concentrating on himself and his future,” Ellis told senators assembled. “That would be understandable. Instead, he is using the stature he has gained as a living testimony of the flaws of our criminal justice system to enact real change and prevent other Texans from sharing his fate.”

Sen. Ellis and Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) recently filed comprehensive discovery reform legislation which they say would create a fairer, more reliable and transparent Texas’ justice system.