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Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Michael Morton Act

[The Michael Morton Act], written by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, requires prosecutors to give lawyers representing the accused any evidence that is relevant to the defense’s case. The intent of the bill, Ellis has said, is to ensure that key facts that could affect the trial aren’t hidden.

“This isn’t necessarily a good thing for me, because my time and my experiences are finished and that’s not going to change,” Morton said to reporters after the bill was signed. “But this law passed today, and was signed, this will make it much better for everybody else, so that what happened to me won’t happen to you.”

This was a super-human effort by multiple people, achieved after a lot of hard work. I don’t mean to discount the value of the bill itself, or of the truly amazing changing of hearts that allowed it to be signed into law.

But there are already laws, like Brady, that mandate the sharing of exculpatory evidence. There are open-file policies in nearly every DA’s office in the state; it’s widely accepted as the only decent way to run a prosecution; those who are going to hide evidence from the defense are probably not going to be influenced by yet another toothless admonition to ‘play nice.’

By passing this bill the legislature has added a very specific set of rules & regulations over an existing one, but what needs to be addressed is the mindset of the prosecutors.

In 2009, years after Coy’s case, one of his prosecutors violated Brady in another case, in an extremely flagrant manner; by hiding the fact that a child accused a black man of assaulting her, when the man she was trying to convict was white. http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Harris-prosecutor-accused-of-hiding-evidence-1742910.php

Apparently, Oncken felt that this glaring inconsistency was meaningless; the jury didn't need to see how the child's testimony changed.

It may have been a one-time thing, but I doubt it. You’d have to have brass balls to just wake up one morning and say, “Hey, I think I’ll try something new and make an attempt to screw a potentially innocent man out of any chance of a decent trial in a way so blatant that a state district judge will feel the need to call me on it.”

The one who discovered the omission was Lisa Andrews, who by this time was working as a defense lawyer; back in 2002, she was the other prosecutor in Coy vs. Texas. In my opinion it seems like she knew there was likely to be something squirreled away by Oncken because she used to work with her. 

Slapping down a fresh reiteration of why people should behave decently doesn’t inspire confidence that we’ve fixed the problem. It smacks of a parent telling their child, “Don’t steal the cookies.”

And then, “Don’t steal the cookies at Grandma’s house.”

And then, “Don’t steal the cookies at the store.”

When Hellion, Jr. starts knocking over his classmates for their cookies, the problem is not that we haven’t created a rule that states he is not allowed to steal cookies at school. The problem is that, deep in his heart, he’s a thieving little bastard who doesn’t care how his actions affect others. That’s what has to be changed; the assumption that the government, represented by prosecutors, police officers, and judges,  is entitled to do whatever it needs to do to get the outcome it desires. 


Anonymous said...

That's exactly what needs to be changed. Not only with the justice system, but with alot of important aspects of life. Not everything should be a turned into a competition, especially in the court determining people's freedom. In my eyes, competition should be for play and sports only. You shouldn't play with people's lives. Like i said before, it would be difficult to restructure a new justice system, but it is possible and it would be for the better. FREE SPM!!!-beanieman

Anonymous said...

I really am glad to see that you have taken the time out of your life to prove that spm did not have a fair trial. I havent read the beginning of yer blog but ive read most of the ending. It was very interesting and i learned a lot. A lot of people are so quick to say he is guilty but yet when you tell them to do research they only want to believe the media. I guess they dont know that the media only posts bs lies. But i will continue to read your blog and hopefully one day, the people who were wrongfully convicted, will be set free.

Anonymous said...

I asked a lawyer about how carlos can get a retrial and this is what he said: The only remedy to have his case overturned would be on a post conviction writ based on actual innocence or newly discovered evidence. The defendant or his family should contact a lawyer who handles post conviction writs.

Incandesio said...

Anon 12:25:

That's true, and I believe the Coy family continues to look for new evidence.

Incandesio said...

Anonb 3:10:

That's very kind of you, thanks for reading!