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Judge Orders Release of Dashcam Footage
At 1400 yesterday in the auxiliary courtroom – venue was moved due to a large number of supporters in attendance – visiting judge Neel Richardson ruled on a defense motion in my case to release dashcam footage.
The decision came one day shy of the two months since my arrest. In spite of numerous open records requests by my attorney, Kurt W. Glass, and numerous watchdog groups, the prosecutor, police department, and 911 call center have refused to release any of the exculpatory evidence in my case. The decision also comes a mere two days after the Texas House voted to pass the Michael Morton Act (it was signed into law by Governor Perry today), a measure designed to prevent wrongful convictions and named in honor of a Texan who spent nearly 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. It would create a uniform “open file” policy in Texas, compelling prosecutors to share case files with defense attorneys that can help defendants’ cases.
Section 552.001 of the Texas Government Code states that it is the policy of the government to recognize that “the people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created. The provisions of this chapter shall be liberally construed to implement this policy.”
Michael Morton was a Texan that
spent wasted 25 years of his life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. The law states that “as soon as practicable after receiving a timely request from the defendant the state shall produce and permit the inspection and the electronic duplication, copying, and photographing, by or on behalf of the defendant, of any offense reports, any designated documents, papers, written or recorded statements of the defendant or a witness, including witness statements of law enforcement officers but not including the work product of counsel for the state in the case and their investigators and their notes or report, or any designated books, accounts, letters, photographs, or objects or other tangible things not otherwise privileged that constitute or contain evidence material to any matter involved in the action and that are in the possession, custody, or control of the state or any person under contract with the state.” Unfortunately, these changes to Article 39.14, Code of Criminal Procedure, don’t take effect until January 1, 2014. Why? If these changes are needed, they are needed now.
Morton, 58, was sentenced to life in prison for the 1986 slaying of his wife Christine, but freed in October 2011, after DNA testing was done on a bloody bandanna originally found near the couple’s Austin home. Investigators said the DNA evidence led them to another man, Mark Alan Norwood, whose DNA was in a national database as a result of his long criminal history.
The district attorney at Morton’s trial, Ken Anderson, now a state district judge in Georgetown north of Austin, is accused of deliberately withholding evidence from the defense that indicated Morton’s innocence. He is now facing criminal contempt and tampering with evidenced and government records charges.
The problem in Texas is that too many prosecutors, including those in Bell County, only release this information when it helps their side of the case. They have a history of withholding evidence when it makes law enforcement look bad, something I’m sure Texans didn’t intend when the Open Records Act became law.
While the judge ruled that the dashcam footage must be released to Mr. Kurt Glass, the Bell County Assistant Prosecutor Mark Danford requested that the judge also rule that the information not be shared with media or placed online. Danford complained about evidence that had supposedly already been released, generating a viral video and national attention. One has to wonder what reason Danford has in asking the judge to place a de facto gag order on the dashcam video and drag this case out any longer than it needs to be.
One could speculate that the request/decision was one of financial motivation. Let’s face it, they know that I am a career soldier with a family and farm to support. They have to know I’m not made of money. By preventing the video from getting out to the public, which could (would) generate further public support for my case; they also can potentially prevent further financial support to my legal fund. Additionally, they know that the longer this drags out, the more money I have to shell out in fees to my attorney. They’ve seen how much has been raised for my defense and I wouldn’t doubt that their object is to drain as much of that as possible, making this the most expensive Class B Misdemeanor case in the history of Bell County.
If they can drag out the legal process, limiting my ability to generate interest in my case and contributions to my legal fund, they could possibly impact the outcome of the proceedings. Mr. Glass has done a great job polishing this turd and trying to get the county to do the right thing.
It’s easy to complain that it should be the purpose of the Bell County Attorney to ensure that justice is done and that the courts aren’t used to waste taxpayer money on frivolous charges. Unfortunately, the word “justice” doesn’t appear anywhere on the County Attorney’s webpage. However, the page DOES frequently mention the mission to prosecute the more than 1,000 misdemeanors filed each week by Bell County LEOs. Based on how my case has been treated, I can’t help but wonder how many of those are as bogus and fraudulent as mine. How many innocent Texans are now convicted criminals because of lying police officers and a prosecution team that supports their schemes by refusing to drop charges and dragging out the sham case costing citizens thousands of dollars to defend themselves and taxpayers who knows how much?!
The video is going to be released one day. By delaying our ability to shed light upon the cockroaches infesting our city, the prosecutors are only allowing them to continuing spreading their germs around the city. The longer they delay righting the wrongs that have propagated against me, the worse they will look in the end. The new mayor and city council should be standing on County Attorney Jim Nichols desk and DEMANDING he put an end to this charade sooner rather than later.
This county needs an enema! I just wish I didn’t have to be the one providing the suppository.
“There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily.”
–George Washington, letter to Edmund Randolph, 1795
Please also read the Watchdog article by Lou Ann Anderson, who was also in the courtroom.
Here is the video of my arrest if you haven’t seen it yet. The dashcam footage shows only about two minutes prior to this, but those 2 minutes are extremely important…and gagged.