Governor Rick Perry signed the Michael Morton Act into law Thursday. Morton spent nearly 25 years in prison for the wrongful conviction of the murder of his wife. This law better protects others from meeting the same fate.
Michael Morton was the guest of honor in Governor Rick Perry's office Thursday as he witnessed the final step of Senate Bill 1611, The Morton Act.
Perry gave Morton a heartfelt thank you.
"It was his vocal efforts and other Texans' work to make sure that citizens of this state would never have to face the ordeal you face," said Perry.
Perry called the Morton Act a major victory for integrity and fairness in our judicial system.
"It makes the discovery process more fair, more prompt and responsive to the discovery of new evidence even after a case has been tried."
And with that, Perry took a seat and signed the Morton act into law. The two shook hands and Morton kissed the pen.
"This is one of those Old Testament hand to God moments. It died more than once," Morton said.
Currently, prosecutors are only required to release what evidence they are ordered to by the court.
While Morton was on trial for the 1987 murder of his wife, then Williamson County district attorney, Ken Anderson, did not reveal critical pieces of evidence that pointed to his innocence, including a transcript where his three-year-old son said Morton was not the attacker.
Morton served nearly 25 years in prison before he was exonerated.
In recent years, some counties, including Travis have adopted an open file policy making all evidence--witness statements, police reports--available to the defense.
This new law will force prosecutors statewide to do the same.
"I think prosecutors are there to see that justice is done, not to convict. And so it's in their interest," Defense attorney Mindy Montford said. "It's certainly in the defendant's interest to know everything that the state possibly would have against him or her so they can adequately defend themselves."
Defense attorney Mindy Montford says for those counties where open file is in place, this new law will speed things up. She will no longer need a judge's input.
"By serving them a simple request and the law says now that they shall turn over those documents. It removes the judge from that system," Montford said.
One man's struggle will now save others.
"This isn't necessarily a good thing for me because my time and my experience is finished and that's not going to change. But this law passed today, signed, this will make it much better for everybody else so that what happened to me won't happen to you or to you," said Morton.
The Morton Law goes into effect January 1 of next year.