GEORGETOWN, Texas – Texas prosecutors agreed Monday to release a man sentenced to life in prison in the 1986 beating death of his wife in 1986 after new DNA tests showed another man was likely responsible.
Michael Morton's case will likely raise more questions about Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, a Gov. Rick Perry appointee whose tenure on the Texas Forensic Science Commission has been controversial. Bradley has been critical of the commission's investigation of the Cameron Todd Willingham case. Willingham was executed in 2004 after being convicted of arson in the deaths of his three children, but experts have concluded the forensic science in the case was faulty.
The Innocence Project, a New York-based organization that specializes in using DNA testing to overturn wrongful convictions, has accused Bradley of suppressing evidence that would have helped clear Morton.
Morton was convicted on circumstantial evidence and sentenced to life in prison for his wife's August 1986 beating death. But new DNA tests done on a bandanna found near Morton's home found blood from his wife and a California felon.
Authorities are now investigating whether that man was responsible for at least one other Austin slaying, that of Debra Jan Baker, who was bludgeoned to death in her bed in 1988. In fact, cold case investigators say they now believe the man may have be a serial killer who operated in the area in the 1980s.
A judge has said he would set terms for Morton's release, which is expected Tuesday or Wednesday.