Via (AP) Texas prosecutors agreed Monday to release an Austin man who spent nearly 25 years in prison for beating his wife to death - but always maintained his innocence - after DNA tests showed another man was responsible. District Judge Sid Harle recommended Michael Morton go free to the state Court of Criminal Appeals, which will make the final determination on overturning his conviction. Morton is set for release Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning, following a final hearing before Harle.
The case will likely raise more questions about John Bradley, district attorney for Williamson County north of Austin and once a Gov. Rick Perry appointee to head the Texas Forensic Science Commission. Bradley criticized the commission's investigation of the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004 after being convicted of arson in the deaths of his three children. Experts have since concluded that case's forensic science 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, who was convicted on circumstantial evidence and sentenced to life in prison for his wife's August 1986 beating death.
Perry, the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, appointed Bradley to the forensic science commission in 2009. But the Texas Senate refused to confirm him after he told reporters that Willingham, executed for alleged arson, was a "guilty monster." (See my new e-book vs. the death penalty, Dead Reckoning.)