Do people really care if prosecutors hid evidence

The Court of Criminal Appeals apparently moved Michael Morton's case to the head of the line and granted relief yesterday. While Morton may be out and waiting on his compensation check, it does not look like  his case is going away anytime soon. The Innocence Project of New York appears to determined to find out who knew what, and a lawsuit may be in the near future.

What we know so far is that evidence pointing to someone else was not disclosed. Who did what is not clear, and as you would expect everyone is probably going to point the finger at someone else. We also know that Mr. Morton would have been out several years ago had John Bradley not fought DNA testing so aggressively.

This is not the first instance of a prosecutor being caught hiding evidence. I've commented before (here, and  here and here)about the lack of incentives for prosecutors to hand over exculpatory evidence. If they don't the worst that happens is that the conviction is reversed. Even if that is far from certain though. Sanctions from the bar are not  a real possibility, and they have immunity so you can't sue them. They are elected officials, but in the past voters  have not seemed to care. I wonder if that might be changing.

Thanks to Scott Henson I saw an editorial in the Williamson county paper - Mr. Bradley's home town. John Bradley has been there forever - first as an assistant, and then a District Attorney, so I imagine his support his fairly solid. That did not keep the paper from criticizing him though:

Mr. Bradley should feel ashamed. His efforts to stymie DNA testing, along with his refusal to hand over exculpatory documents to defense attorneys, may have had consequences far beyond the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton. 

An unnamed man's DNA is now connected to two remarkably similar murder scenes within miles of each other: Ms. Morton's in 1986 and Debra Baker's in 1988.

That mystery man, a violent criminal who may still be at large, may have had many more chances to kill again as Mr. Morton languished in jail. That is a terrifying thought.

Still, Mr. Bradley seems more interested in protecting his reputation than in bringing the real killer to justice.

I don't know when he comes up for re-election, and  he may not even have an opponent. It will be interesting to see if his handling of this case - as well as others - will be an issue. If so, maybe the public really does care about prosecutors acting ethically and fairly - and following the rules before they lock someone up.

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