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October 4, 2011

Next murderer scheduled for execution in Georgia gets stay for DNA testing

As detailed in this new Reuters article, a state judge in Georgia today "issued a stay of execution for a convicted killer whose attorneys seek a new trial and additional DNA testing."  Here is more:

Marcus Ray Johnson, 46, was scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection on Wednesday for the rape and murder of Angela Sizemore in Albany, Georgia in March 1994.

But Dougherty County Superior Court Chief Judge W.E. Lockette delayed the execution and set a hearing for February to determine the merits of Johnson's request for more DNA testing. Johnson's attorneys say the evidence that should be tested includes blood, saliva, hair, clothing and fingernail clippings.

Prosecutors said in court filings that Johnson's contentions had already been rejected by state and federal courts. The state said, at best, the DNA test results would prove Johnson was still guilty as a party to the crimes.

October 4, 2011 at 05:05 PM | Permalink

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"Next murderer scheduled for execution in Georgia gets stay for FURTHER DNA testing"

Fixed. DNA testing in the 90's proved the victim's blood was on his jacket.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Oct 4, 2011 7:18:34 PM

Gotta love the US justice system. The hearing is scheduled for FEB 2012. A hearing that will take a 1/2 hr and the Judge needs 4 months. DNA test #1 wasnt enough. Now we need to delay the execution another 6 months. This is why the whole process is a joke.

Posted by: DeanO | Oct 5, 2011 8:45:06 AM

Is the Georgia AG appealing to the state supreme court?

Posted by: justice seeker | Oct 5, 2011 10:27:44 AM

@justice seeker
Yes, but I think the chance of reversal is pretty slim.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Oct 5, 2011 1:02:31 PM

'DNA test #1 wasnt enough'

ask Amanda Knox and her defense team if they thought once was enough...

Posted by: comment | Oct 5, 2011 1:58:40 PM

@comment
What defense attorney and defendant would ever say one test is enough?

Posted by: MikeinCT | Oct 5, 2011 2:10:38 PM

Obie Anthony released after 1995 murder conviction overturned - http://www.scpr.org/news/2011/10/05/29261/obie-anthony-released-after-murder-conviction-over/
Click on my name for link
18 years of his life lost because prosecutors and police placed a higher premium on "winning" than on truth and justice.
Along with family and friends, a gaggle of law school students surrounded Anthony as he came out of jail. They worked on his case through Loyola Law School’s Project for the Innocent and under the tutelage of Professor Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor.

Posted by: peter | Oct 5, 2011 4:05:58 PM

@peter
What does this have to do with this case?

Posted by: MikeinCT | Oct 5, 2011 10:46:34 PM

ANOTHER PROSECUTOR HIDING EVIDENCE--THE SAME ONE INVOLVED IN WILLINGHAM? : MORTON WAS NOT A CAPITAL CASE; THANK GOD HE WAS NOT EXECUTED--TROY DAVIS WAS: BILL, YOU HAVE ALWAYS SAID THESE PROSECUTORS SHOULD BE DISBARRED. NOT MENTIONED IN THE ARTICLE BELOW IS DISTRICT ATTORNEY BRADFORD'S SUPPRESSION OF THE TRANSCRIPT OF MORTON'S 3 YEAR OLD SON AT THE TIME OF THE MURDER SAYING THE MURDERER WAS "NOT DADDY." CAN YOU TAKE A STAND NATIONALLY AND USE YOUR INFLUENCE? THIS HAS GOT TO STOP.

After serving nearly 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife, Michael Morton was freed this afternoon in Texas, exonerated by DNA evidence that connected another man to his wife's bludgeoning.

The former grocery store employee, who is now 57, was released Tuesday afternoon when he appeared before the 26th Judicial Court of Williamston County Texas.

"I know there are a lot of things you want to ask me. I will say this: Colors seem real bright to me now, and the women are real good looking," Morton joked afterward to reporters.

His mother, Pat Morton, told the Austin American-Statesman, "This is one of the happiest days of my life, and I thank God for it."

Morton was convicted of murder in 1987 on circumstantial evidence, and had fought that verdict ever since. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization that has exonerated hundreds of people using DNA technology, said its efforts to appeal the conviction were stymied by current Williamson County District Attorney James Bradley, who has been in office since 2001. But Bradley said his decisions to restrict case files and postpone DNA analysis were made with honest intentions.

"Do I in hindsight wish we could have done this quickly? The answer is, 'Yes I do,'" Bradley told ABCNews.com. "Do I think I acted in good faith at the time we were litigating these issues? Yes I do."


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Michael Morton has been exonerated for the... View Full Size

Husband Exonerated 25 Years After Murder Watch Video

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Falsely Accused and Wrongly Convicted Watch Video

One of the files eventually obtained by the Innocence Project through a public records request included an eyewitness account of the crime from Morton's son, less than two weeks after it occurred.

A sergeant at the Williamson County Sheriff's Office interviewed Morton's mother-in-law and his son Eric, who was 3 years old at the time. The child said he had seen a "monster" wearing red gloves and carrying a basket of wood, who threw a suitcase on his mother's bed. He said the man hurt his mother. When asked if his father was home at the time, he said, "No. Mommie and Eric was there."

Christine Morton was found covered in blood on her bed, with a blue suitcase and a wicker basket piled on top of her body. The medical examiner found wood chips in her hair and skull.

Attorneys for the Innocence Project believe Eric witnessed his mother's murder, and questioned why Bradley had barred Morton from obtaining this eyewitness account and other documents from the sheriff's office.

It's unclear what Morton's lawyers were told more than 20 years ago. Bradley claims Morton's lawyers "understood his son was way too young. He couldn't testify and wasn't a credible witness."

A stained bandana was found 100 yards from the Morton home at an abandoned construction site, but in the mid-'80s, DNA analysis wasn't yet available.

The Innocence Project asked the judicial district court in Williamson, Texas, to analyze the blood on the bandana in 2005, but Bradley opposed that request, and every subsequent request for several more years.

The DA's office didn't consider the bandana to be evidence of the crime, Bradley said, because it "was not at the crime scene."

"As it turned out, the Innocence Project was correct," he said.

The Innocence Project eventually won a court order to conduct DNA testing in 2009. DNA test results from June revealed Christine Morton's blood and hair were detected on the bandana, in addition to DNA that was later found to match that of a convicted offender in a national DNA database.

Bradley said he could not reveal who it was at this time.

Posted by: Michael R, Levine | Oct 6, 2011 1:54:34 AM

Mike - your comment opposing further dna testing is symptomatic of a general malaise in which guilt or maximum culpability is taken for granted almost from the point of initial charge, and certainly from the point of conviction. As has been said many times, and with many examples, certainty is more often an elusive quality of investigation than you would like, and in the desire for finality, shortcuts too often result ..... with the wrongful assessment either of guilt or culpability. In a legal environment which bows to the perceived needs or rights of the victim (or more usually the victims relatives), and in which retribution is made an overarching aim of sentence, the rights and needs of the defendant in a fair procedure of trial and appeal may be overridden to the detriment of justice. If such laxity of investigation and legal process is permitted, even in cases where it is hard to see possible innocence or mitigation of culpability, then this lower standard is seen to be condoned with a resulting danger to all other cases. The fairest result for everyone is in achieving a correct conviction in the first place. That is not reliably possible if "winning" replaces "justice for the accused" as the motivating force of prosecution. In the end, justice for the accused is the only means to ensure justice for the victim. The example of Obie Anthony is further evidence of that fact.

Posted by: peter | Oct 6, 2011 2:21:02 AM

@peter
I understand why you posted the story, but the cases are not related. This is a capital case, there has already been DNA testing and I've yet to hear that prosecutors or police intentionally hid the evidence in question.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Oct 6, 2011 7:38:18 AM

Mike - in the absence of additional physical evidence; the use of unreliable eyewitness testimony from people who did not see him commit any crime; the denial of expert testimony at the trial on the problems with the eyewitness identifications ..... it is troubling that other readily available evidence (hidden or otherwise) has not been allowed for testing. If the prosecution were confident that it will confirm their theory of guilt, there should be no objection to the testing. A weakly supported theory of events should not be sufficient to execute anyone (yes, I know it happens all the time!).

Posted by: peter | Oct 6, 2011 8:20:28 AM

@peter
The victim's blood on his jacket and his comments on being arrested are fairly damning, so the eye witness testimony is hardly the lynch-pin of the case.

"If the prosecution were confident that it will confirm their theory of guilt, there should be no objection to the testing."
Perhaps they feel it's not in the interest of justice to go through a year or two of court hearings on DNA evidence and the nature of the testing (or considerably longer in the Kevin Cooper case) only to reinforce what we already know. Soon to followed by defense attorneys changing their strategy and claiming he was crazy all along as they did in a Florida case last year.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Oct 6, 2011 3:29:06 PM

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