There is a significant development in the case involving a Texas man who spent almost 25 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Former Williamson County district attorney Ken Anderson should face a court of inquiry to examine allegations that he violated state law by withholding evidence that could have spared Michael Morton from a wrongful conviction and almost 25 years in prison, a district judge ruled today. After a 75-minute hearing, District Judge Sid Harle ruled that there is probable cause to believe that Anderson may have broken state law in the Morton case.
Noting that the allegations to date have been spurred by Morton’s lawyers, Harle said a court of inquiry would give Anderson a chance to clear his name and Morton a chance to seek a greater measure of justice. Harle will put his request in writing – he gave no timeline – to Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, who will determine whether to convene a court of inquiry to examine the allegations. If Jefferson agrees, the Supreme Court would assign a state district judge to oversee the court of inquiry, which is a fact-finding body that would determine whether any state laws were violated. The court would not issue a punishment or criminal conviction.
After the hearing, Morton choked up briefly when facing reporters. “When you do the right thing, like the judge did today, everything falls into place,” said Morton, now sporting a gray goatee. Anderson, now a district judge in Georgetown, was not in court. His lawyer, Mark Dietz, said Anderson looks forward to the court of inquiry. “It does give him the ability to clear his name,” Dietz said. Morton, freed in October after DNA tests pointed to another man in the murder of his wife, Christine, has accused Anderson of hiding five pieces of evidence that could have spared him from a wrongful conviction.
One of those pieces of evidence, however, was revealed today to be innocuous. Morton’s lawyers had said a $20 check, made out to Christine Morton but cashed a week after her death, was apparently forged – perhaps by the real killer — but was not revealed to Morton’s trial lawyers. It turns out that the check was one of two cashed by Michael Morton – a fact that he didn’t remember until he was recently shown several deposit slips and recognized his handwriting, Scheck said. Anderson lawyer Eric Nichols said the incident showed that Morton’s lawyers had indulged in baseless accusations that besmirched Anderson’s name and reputation.
Other evidence that Morton’s lawyers allege was withheld included:
- Two transcripts of a police interview with Christine Morton’s mother, Rita Kirkpatrick, who revealed that the Mortons’ 3-year-old son witnessed the murder and said Michael Morton was not home at the time. One transcript was found in Anderson’s trial file last summer, and a longer version was discovered in the sheriff’s department files in 2008.
- A note to the lead sheriff’s investigator indicating that Christine Morton’s credit card might have been used in San Antonio two days after her death.
- A police report about suspicious behavior by an unidentified driver of a green van who, a neighbor said, on several occasions parked and walked into the wooded area behind the Morton house.
After being laughed off of the national political stage, Rick Perry came home to Austin to lick his wounds but like a sock with a hole in it, he just keeps showing up. Perry vowed Thursday to continue to fight for states’ rights and against Republicans who offer “a lukewarm version” of Democratic policies. “A candidate I am no more,” the former Republican presidential hopeful told the Conservative Political Action Conference. “But a committed Tenth Amendment conservative I will be until the last breath I breathe.”
Perry’s 15-minute speech at the nation’s largest annual gathering of conservative activists featured some direct attacks on President Obama, indirect attacks on GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney and no mention of the man Perry has endorsed for president, Newt Gingrich. The conservative Texan, whose early lead in presidential polls evaporated amid a series of gaffes and weak debate performances, told conservatives they shouldn’t “settle” for a 2012 nominee who is not deeply committed to “our shared conservative ideas.” “We do the American people no great service if we replace the current embodiment of big government with a lukewarm version of the same,” he said. “We can’t tinker our way to victory. We’ve got to be bold. We’ve got to be clear.”
The Texas politician’s biggest applause line was a jab at the upbeat Chrysler Super Bowl ad featuring tough-guy actor Clint Eastwood declaring it is “halftime in America.” “If it’s halftime in America, then I’m fearful what the final score is going to be if we let this president start the second half as the quarterback,” Perry told the conservative loyalists. The populist speech sharply criticized the high rollers of high finance, saying that the “cabal” of Wall Street and Washington interests “must be broken up.” “We need to clean up the corruption from K Street to Wall Street so they can’t gamble with our children’s future again,” he said.
Perry also blasted the Obama administration’s order requiring religiously affiliated businesses to offer zero-deductible birth control services in their health insurance plans. “This administration is assaulting the Catholic church and people of faith across our nation by forcing their pro-abortion agenda on religious hospitals, on charities and on employers,” he said. “The Obama administration’s war on faith must be defeated.” Perry warmed the crowd up with a couple of self-deprecating jokes. He noted that he wanted to be president, but “the people of Iowa and New Hampshire had a different idea.” Recycling a Texas A&M joke he used in his first post-campaign speech Monday in Round Rock, Perry told the Washington crowd, “Aggies never lose. We just run out of time. So you could say that my presidential campaign just ran out of time.”
Perry received standing ovations before and after his speech from more than 1,000 people assembled in the Washington hotel ballroom. “I wish he could debate as well as he gives speeches,” said Santo Lippo, 58, of Staten Island, N.Y. “It was a phenomenal, conservative, right-from-the heart speech.” Perry’s speech left Katy Jungers, 19, of Moose Lake, Minn., wishing he were still in the presidential contest. “The speech was amazing,” she said. “It’s too bad he couldn’t continue running, because that (speech) was perfect. I really believe that if he had more time, he could have done better.”
The Texas governor told reporters that even as a non-candidate, he will continue to push for the priorities he holds dear. “I haven’t left the fight,” he said. “I went home, I reloaded my mag, and I am fighting on different front.” And in a different universe. You lost Rick, it’s way past time to just stop.
Houston’s John Goodman, left, and Jay Comeaux join actress Faye Dunaway at the 2006 Stanford U.S. Open Championship at the International Polo Club Palm Beach. JAMIE KONRADY PHOTO Photo: JAMIE KONRADY, Houston Chronicle / handout email
This is one of those stories that just keeps getting more bizarre and it ties together two places known for some unusual “socialite” news stories, Houston and Palm Beach, Florida. Houston millionaire and polo magnate John Goodman, who is facing criminal and civil trials arising from a fatal car crash in 2010, likely will find himself in court again to defend the “adoption” of his 42-year-old girlfriend — a move that his two children have challenged. The trustee for the trust fund set up to benefit Goodman’s son and daughter is suing him in hopes of throwing out the October adoption, in which Heather Laruso Hutchinswas legally designated as his daughter.
The unusual adoption, ostensibly done for financial planning purposes, in theory allowed Hutchins valid claim to a third of the trust fund, which reportedly has assets that exceed $300 million. His biological children, who as teenagers are not old enough to take money from the trust, claim Hutchins’ adoption is an abuse of Florida law. Legal papers were filed last week in Miami and in Palm Beach County on behalf of guardian Jeffrey Goddess. He claims that Goodman, 48, defrauded the court by a move that a local judge called a “surreal” step into a “legal twilight zone.”
The adoption came as a shock to his children and their mother, the Palm Beach Post reported. Goddess’ attorney claimed Goodman did not tell the judge overseeing the adoption matter that he is being sued by the parents of 23-year-old Scott Wilson, who died in February 2010 when his car was struck by Goodman’s vehicle and knocked into a drainage canal filled with water. The unconscious Wilson drowned. Palm Beach County prosecutors charged Goodman with driving under the influence and vehicular homicide. The trial is scheduled to begin March 7. A wrongful death suit brought by Wilson’s parents will start later in the month.
Miami attorney Joseph Rebakfiled a motion on behalf of Goddess, the children’s Delaware-based guardian ad litem, asking the court to throw out the adoption. “I have never seen anything like this in my 31, 32 years practicing law,” Rebak told the Post Wednesday. “Obviously we think it’s wrong and we are hoping to have it set aside.” In a statement released by Goodman’s lawyers after the adoption became publicized, he denied any nefarious motive. “By making Ms. Hutchins a beneficiary of the trust, Mr. Goodman provided her with the status and ability to protect the closely held family assets that only this adoption could give her,” the statement said. “Everything that has been done by Mr. Goodman was done with the intention to preserve and grow the assets of the Trust for his two minor children … “
Florida Circuit Judge Glenn Kelleysaid that even if the adoption stands, Hutchins will not have immediate control over a third of the trust fund. Kelley said that for now the trustee controls the assets and Hutchins would be entitled to an “income stream,” which he estimated at $5 million a year.
I am a veteran of the Armed Forces. I don’t really care if the Marines urinated on a few dead terrorists. Big deal. Handle it within the unit and let it go. Check this out. The Marine Corps confirmed Thursday that one of its scout sniper teams in Afghanistan posed for a photograph in front of a flag with a logo resembling that of the notorious Nazi SS.Use of the SS symbol is not acceptable, and the Marine Corps has addressed the issue, Lt. Col. Stewart Upton said in a statement. However, he did not specify what action was taken.
Upton said the Marines in the photograph on an Internet blog are no longer with the unit they were assigned to at the time. The picture was taken in September 2010 in Sangin province, Afghanistan. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation in Washington said it was outraged by the photograph and wants a full investigation. Outraged? Seriously? For what? Get out from behind your desk in Washington and venture into a war zone for a week or so. Mikey Weinstein of the foundation said he has been flooded with calls from former Marines offended by the photo and from one member of his organization who is an Auschwitz survivor. “Heads need to roll and this needs to be fully investigated. This is a complete and total outrage,” he said.
Weinstein said his organization was sending a letter to the head of the Marine Corps and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Master Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva, a spokesman at Camp Pendleton, Calif., said the photo was brought to the attention of the 1 Marine Expeditionary Force inspector general in November, and he found there was no intent on the part of the Marines to identify themselves with a racist organization. Oliva said the investigation found that the SS symbol was meant to identify the Marines as scout snipers, not Nazis, but was nonetheless not acceptable.
As I pointed out earlier this is the second time this year the Marine Corps has had to do damage control for actions of its troops. The Marine Corps is currently investigating a group of Marines recorded on video urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters. In the grand scheme of things, none of this matters. Killing terrorists DOES matter and keeping Americans safe.