Day: April 30, 2012

US – Free After 25 Years: A Tale Of Murder And Injustice – Michael Morton


April 30 Source : http://www.npr.org

The past few years in Texas have seen a parade of DNA exonerations: more than 40 men so far. The first exonerations were big news, but the type has grown smaller as Texans have watched a dismaying march of exonerees, their wasted years haunting the public conscience.

Yet a case in Williamson County, just north of Austin, is raising the ante. Michael Morton had been sentenced to life in prison for murdering his wife. He was released six months ago — 25 years after being convicted — when DNA testing proved he was not the killer.

Instead of merely seeking financial compensation, Morton is working to fix the system. His lawyers, including The Innocence Project, want to hold the man who put him behind bars accountable. They also want new laws to make sure Morton’s story is never repeated.

The Day Of The Murder

On the morning of Aug. 13, 1986, Morton was getting ready for work as head of the pharmacy department at a nearby Safeway in Austin. He closed the door to his home, blissfully unaware that the next time he saw his wife of seven years she would be in a coffin. Morton had nine hours of his normal life left. The clock ran out after work, when he arrived to pick up his son from day care.

“First time I figured something was up was when I locked eyes with the baby sitter,” he says. “She looked at me real weird, like, ‘What are you doing here? Eric’s not here, why are you here?’ ”

Morton was immediately worried and called home. The man who answered was Williamson County Sheriff Jim Boutwell. The sheriff refused to answer Morton’s questions and told him to come home immediately. Morton drove there in a panic.

“There were a lot of cars in the street. There was a big yellow crime-scene ribbon around our house,” he says. “Neighbors were across the street, clustered on the corner … talking to each other, and of course, when my truck comes racing up, they all kind of key on me.”

Boutwell met Morton outside the front door and, in front of everyone, bluntly told him Christine Morton was dead, murdered in their bedroom. Morton reeled.

“You really don’t know how you’re going to react until it happens to you, and with me, I remember it was as if I was … falling inside myself,” he says.

Morton was stunned, nearly mute, which fueled the sheriff’s suspicions and became a major prosecution touchstone at his trial. The fact that Morton didn’t cry out or weep became evidence that he didn’t love his wife and had killed her.

Boutwell took Morton into the living room, his wife’s body still down the hall. For the next four hours, Morton answered every question the sheriff could think of and never once asked for a lawyer.

“In my mind, I knew that, ‘OK, he’s doing his job. You have to eliminate the suspects, so he’s got to tick off these certain questions and get rid of me as a suspect and get on with this thing,’ ” he says.

The ‘Evidence’

Morton was wrong. Boutwell had already decided that Morton was his No. 1 one suspect. The previous day had been Morton’s birthday, and the family had gone out for a nice dinner. After getting home and putting Eric to bed, Morton was hoping for a “happy ending” with his wife. That’s not what happened, though, and Morton’s feelings were hurt. He wrote her something the next morning before he left for work.

Chris, I know you didn’t mean to, but you made me feel really unwanted last night. After a good meal, we came home, you binged on the rest of the cookies, then you farted and fell asleep. I’m not mad. I just wanted you to know how I feel without us getting into a fight about sex. Just think how you’d feel if you were left hanging on your birthday. I love you.”

This note, left on the couple’s bathroom mirror, turned out to be Morton’s doom.

Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson used it to weave a sensational tale of unspeakable violence. In Anderson’s version of the crime, Morton used a wooden club to viciously bludgeon his wife’s head because she wouldn’t have sex with him. Then, in triumph over her body, he pleasured himself. The mild-mannered pharmacy manager was transformed into a sexually sick, murderous psychopath.

It was all a prosecutorial fantasy; none of it was true. Yet Anderson pounded his fists into his hands and wept to the jury as he described Morton’s perversity. Compared with this vivid picture of the crime, Morton’s defense didn’t have a lot to offer.

“The defense was that [Morton] didn’t do it, and we don’t know who did it. But whoever did it snuck in and committed a really vicious, vicious murder,” says Bill Anderson, now a criminal law professor at the University of Texas who was Morton’s lawyer in 1986. “And that is very frightening. A jury, by convicting [Morton], makes themselves safe. They’ve solved the case and they can go on about their business.”

What the jury and the defense lawyers didn’t know about was the evidence that had been concealed by Williamson County law enforcement. Only the sheriff’s office and the district attorney knew about it.

Undisclosed Information

For the past eight years, John Raley, of the Houston firm Raley & Bowick, has spent thousands of hours pro bono as Morton’s lawyer. “There were fingerprints on the sliding glass door, and there were fingerprints on the luggage that was piled on Christine Morton’s body,” he says. That’s not all: A neighbor told police that she’d seen a man in a green van casing the Morton home. Repeatedly.

“The neighbors report that they had seen a strange van driving around the neighborhood, stopping around the Morton house. The man in the van would drive around back to the wooded area and walk into the wooded area in back,” Raley says. “The interesting thing is, it’s around that area where the bandanna that contains the DNA was eventually found.”

A bloody bandanna had been found by a deputy behind the Morton home. Incredibly, the sheriff’s office decided to ignore it and left it lying on the ground.

Read full article (pictures, listen the story)  : click here 

OKLAHOMA – Green Country Family Waits Decades For Justice


TULSA, Oklahoma  april 24 source http://www.newson6.com

For the next 20 years, Debbie and her mother drove to the prison twice a year to oppose parole for both men.

Watch the video news: click here 

Clayton’s daughter and her mother

 

 

 

A Green Country family has waited nearly four decades for justice. Michael Selsor was given a death sentence for murdering Clayton Chandler in 1975. Selsor’s execution is next week.

Chandler’s family has been fighting for 37 years for this execution, waiting while Selsor had years of appeals and a second trial. Now that clemency has been denied, they’re finally allowed to tell their story.

On September 15th, 1975, Clayton Chandler was getting ready to close the U-Tote-M convenience store, along with worker Ina Morris, when Michael Selsor and Richard Dodson came in to rob it.

They later told police they agreed ahead of time: leave no witnesses.

“He had a choice,” daughter Debbie Huggins said. “He did not have to kill Dad; he did not have to pull the trigger.”

After getting around $500 from the register, Selsor shot Clayton six times; he died on the floor. Dodson shot Morris in the head, neck and shoulder, but she survived. The two men were later arrested in California.

At the first trial, a jury found Selsor guilty and sentenced him to die. But the next year, the Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional and seven years after that, Selsor was up for parole.

“We thought our nightmare in hell was losing Dad, little did we know what was in store for us,” Debbie said.

For the next 20 years, Debbie and her mother drove to the prison twice a year to oppose parole for both men.

“Every year you went before the parole board,” Debbie said. “It took you back to the night he died, gut wrenching, the fear, the trauma, the feelings, they all come forward.”

Selsor’s many appeals paid off and he was granted a new trial 20 years after his first, but that jury also found him guilty and sentenced him to death.

More Than 36 years after Clayton Chandler was gunned down, Selsor is scheduled to die.

“No remorse, no I’m sorry, nothing but hate,” Debbie said.

Debbie says she and her mother were not driven to fight all these years out of a sense of revenge, only by the desire to get justice for the man they loved and lost.

“My dad did not have a choice,” Debbie said. “He’s gone. Michael Selsor should pay the same price.”

Both Selsor and Dodson had records when arrested for murdering Clayton. Plus, Selsor told police they’d committed four robberies before the one they weren’t arrested for. In previous robberies, they stabbed the clerk and shot another with a shotgun.

Selsor’s execution is next Tuesday.

OKLAHOMA – Limited drug supply may hinder executions


April 30 source http://www.tulsaworld.com

Michael B. Selsor: His execution is set for Tuesday unless the governor intervenes.

When (and if) Michael Selsor’s death sentence is carried out Tuesday, Oklahoma will only have enough supply of its lethal injection cocktail to execute one more inmate.

The pentobarbital that Oklahoma has used for the first part of its three-step execution process is in short supply nationally, and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections has nearly exhausted its remaining doses with the executions of Gary Welch and Timothy Stemple earlier this year.

“We’re still exploring our options,” DOC spokesman Jerry Massie said.

Pentobarbital became the first step of Oklahoma’s three-part lethal injection formula in 2010, after sodium thiopental supplies ran short and a federal judge blocked states from using foreign-manufactured versions of the drug.

In the second and third steps of Oklahoma’s lethal injection, vecuronium bromide stops respiratory function and potassium chloride stops the heart, Massie said.

According to Board of Corrections reports, as many as seven executions are possible in Oklahoma this year, which would be double the annual average. In 2001, the state executed a record 18 inmates.

Unless the governor intervenes, Selsor is scheduled to die Tuesday at Oklahoma State Penitentiary for his role in the shooting death of a Tulsa convenience store manager during a 1975 robbery spree that left at least three other people injured. He was originally sentenced to death, but that sentence was commuted to life in prison after the state’s death penalty law was found unconstitutional. An appeals court granted him a new trial in 1998, and another jury found him guilty and once again sentenced him to die.

Because execution dates aren’t set until an inmate’s final appeal is denied, and the U.S. Supreme Court takes its recess in June, officials don’t anticipate having to make a decision regarding the lethal injection drugs for several months, Massie said.

Death-row inmate Garry Thomas Allen was scheduled to be executed this month, but a federal judge issued a stay so that questions regarding his mental competency might be examined.

There are other drugs on the market that work similarly to pentobarbital, but switching drugs would likely initiate a court challenge similar to what the state faced when it switched to pentobarbital from sodium thiopental, Massie said. A judge ultimately ruled to allow Oklahoma to use the drug, which is widely used in veterinary medicine.

Over the past few years, several drug manufacturers have refused to sell those drugs to states that intend to use them for executions.