In 1963, the Supreme Court of the United States decided a landmark case, Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), that established that the prosecution must turn over all evidence that might exonerate a defendant (a person charged with a crime). Evidence that might exonerate a defendant is referred to as exculpatory evidence – evidence favorable to the accused.
Many cases have been reversed on appeal after learning that the State had withheld evidence that would be considered “exculpatory” for the accused.
In 1987 in Williamson County, Texas, a man named Michael Morton was wrongfully convicted for the murder of his wife. He spent almost 25 years in prison before DNA evidence proved that not only did Mr. Morton not commit the murder, but instead pointed to another man, Mark Alan Norwood. Norwood was later convicted in 2013 for murdering Mr. Morton’s wife. Sadly, because Norwood was not investigated and convicted at the time of Mrs. Morton’s murder, Norwood murdered another woman while Michael Morton was serving time in prison. In Mr. Morton’s case, the prosecutor withheld this exculpatory evidence even after the judge ordered its release to the defense. That prosecutor was later convicted of contempt of court.
In May 2013, Governor Rick Perry enacted the Michael Morton Act designed to ensure a more open discovery process, removing barriers for defense attorneys in accessing evidence for their clients.
Additionally, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure addresses this issue in Article 39.14, specifically, paragraph (h). This article lays out the Discovery process in Texas. To clarify, discovery is the process in which the defense learns of the State’s evidence in a criminal case against an accused. See the full article here: https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/CR/htm/CR.39.htm
This topic is live on our minds as we prepare for the re-trial of the State of Texas v. Antonio Armstrong, Jr. The case is set to be re-tried on March 27th and we anticipate the trial will last at least a month.
Yesterday our defense team obtained documents through our own subpoenas and investigation that are highly exculpatory for our client “A.J.” We did not receive this information from the State prosecutors. We are less than a month away from trying a case, for a second time, that could send a young man away for the rest of his life.
You can learn more about this latest development here:
Folks typically do not like criminal defense attorneys until they need one. Criminal defense attorneys are the gatekeepers who protect clients’ rights and ensure they are provided fair trials so that justice may be done.
For the family whose loved one was murdered while the police were focused on putting away the wrong man, Michael Morton, the conviction of the real murderer came just a little too late.