On May 8, 2013, The Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association held its Annual Banquet and Award Ceremony. It was my great honor to present our Torch of Liberty Award to Exonerees, Mr Anthony Graves and Mr. Michael Morton. What follows is my presentation speech.
Presentation of Torch of Liberty Award to Mr. Anthony Graves and Mr. Michael Morton.
First of all I would like to welcome our Torch of Liberty Award Recipients.
Mr. Anthony Graves and Mr. Michael Morton.
Michael is also joined by his remarkable lawyer, Mr John Raley.
Let’s give a warm welcome to Michael Morton, his family and to the Raleys.
TORCH OF LIBERTY AWARD
The HCCLA’s Torch of Liberty Award is given annually to someone who has advanced the cause of liberty in Texas.
Through their good works, Anthony Graves and Michael Morton have each advanced the cause of liberty inTexas.
That is why they are this years recipients of our Torch of Liberty Award,
Anthony & Michael’s lives are remarkably similar. Their lives are the story of Betrayal, Courage and Grace
Both Anthony and Michael were the victims of the worst kind of betrayal.
They were both betrayed by prosecutors charged with enforcing the law.
There can be No Doubt now, that their Prosecutors violated the law in order to obtain Anthony and Michael’s convictions.
Anthony was prosecuted in Burleson Countyby DA Charles Sebesta. Anthony was convicted of capital murder and sent to Death Row.
Michael was prosecuted in Williamson County by DA Ken Anderson.
Michael was convicted of murder and sent to prison for life.
These unscrupulous prosecutors both hid critical exculpatory evidence.
These prosecutors betrayed their oath and duty.
These Prosecutors Robbed Anthony & Michael of their liberty.
Anthony and Michael, maintained their innocence from day one.
Imprisoned for years, neither man ever gave up his fight,
They both showed extraordinary COURAGE during their many years of incarceration..
Both men were offered deals by the Prosecutors, if they would abandon their appeals and plead guilty.
Both men told the Prosecutors NO!
Neither Anthony nor Michael would plead guilty to a crime they did not commit.
Neither Anthony nor Michael ever backed down, ever surrendered or ever relented in their quest for freedom.
After many years Relief Came first for Anthony.
In reversing Anthony’s conviction, The Fifth Circuit found that the prosecution had elicited false statements during the trial and withheld critical testimony from the jury.
The Fifth Circuit Said,
“ Perhaps even more egregious than District Attorney’s Sebesta’s failure to disclose Carters’s most recent statement is his DELIBERATE trial tactic of eliciting testimony from the chief investigating officer that DA Sebesta knew was FALSE.”
The special Prosecutor assigned to investigate Anthony’s case said,
“After months of investigation & talking to every witness whose ever been involved in this case and people who’ve never been talked to before,
After looking under every rock we could find,we found not one piece of credible evidence that linked Anthony Graves to this Commission of this capital murder.”
“He is an innocent Man”.
In October 2010, after 18 years behind bars, Anthony Graves was at long last freed. !!!!
After Anthony’s release, relief finally came for Michael.
John Raley’s dogged investigation revealed that critical exculpatory evidence had been withheld by DA Ken Anderson.
A bloody bandana was found near the Morton home. DA Anderson hid the existence of the Bandana from the Defense.
In 2005, John Raley, began relentlessly seeking an order for DNA testing of the bloody bandana. Then Williamson County DA, John Bradley fought the DNA testing every step of the way, and thereby unnecessarily & cruelly extended Michael’s incarceration.
In 2011, the court finally relented and ordered DNA testing. None of Michael’s DNA was found on the bloody rag. DNA testing linked another man, to the murder.
In October, 2011, after spending 25 years behind bars, Michael was freed and exonerated.
After Michael was freed, attention focused on his prosecutor Ken Anderson. A rare Court of Inquiry was held. Judge Louis Sturns presided.
After weeks of testimony, Judge Sturns found that DA Ken Anderson acted to defraud the trial court and Michael Morton’s Defense Lawyers.
On April 13, the Court of Inquiry concluded with Judge Sturns ordering Ken Anderson’s immediate arrest.
Judge Sturns said, “This court cannot think of a more intentionally harmful act than a prosecutor’s conscious choice to hid mitigating evidence so as to create an uneven playing field for a defendant facing a murder charge and a life sentence.”
Both Anthony and Michael could have turned their backs on Texas and the Texas criminal Justice system. One could easily understand if they chose to leave a state where the criminal justice system IS OFTEN MORE CRIMINAL THAN JUST.
But neither Anthony nor Michael have turned their backs on Texas.
Instead, Anthony and Michael have each gracefully used their notoriety to draw attention to Texas’ flawed criminal justice system.
Anthony and Michael have both relentlessly fought to improve the criminal justice system..
Anthony has been an outspoken critic of the death penalty in Texas.
He has traveled across the United Statesand to Europe educating people about what is wrong with our system.
He has fought the use of solitary confinement in prisons.
Just weeks ago, Anthony had an Editorial published in the Chronicle about the dangers of solitary confinement.
When Anthony Graves speaks about the flaws in our criminal justice system, people listen.
Judge Jay Burnett said of Anthony Graves, “ Anthony Graves is an intelligent and effective speaker who has, from the time of his release, used his prison experience in conjunction with his notoriety to bring to the forefront the necessary publicity for reforms regarding the inhumane treatment of inmates in our Texas Prisons”
“ I believe him to be a formidable force that can operate to promote the prison reform so desperately needed in our Texas prisons.”
Michael Morton has also used his voice to try to Improve Texas’ flawed criminal justice system.
Michael has spent months in Austin meeting with lawmakers.
Michael has fought to broaden a Defendant’s right to the basic discovery.
He has fought to require prosecutors to turn over offense reports to the defense.
He has fought to require prosecutors to turn over witness statements to the Defense.
Michael has graciously allowed his name to be attached to a discovery Bill. The Michael Morton Bill.
This Bill requires prosecutors to give the defense offense reports and witness statements in every case.
Brandon Dudley, Senator Ellis’ very able Legislative Aid, said of Michael,
“ He has committed to using his life and his tragedy to make a difference in the lives of others-to try and protect others from the injustice he was forced to endure. There were times when the bill was in a great deal of trouble; and if it weren’t for Michael Morton, we would have given up.”
John Raley, who calls Michael his brother, said of Michael, “ He met with Senators one on one. He looked them in the eyes, and asked what basis, if any they had to oppose it. It is hard to avoid the gaze of someone with moral integrity. He willed it to pass”
Anthony Graves and Michael Morton were betrayed byTexas. For a combined 43 years they courageously fought for their liberty.
Since being freed, they both have worked very hard to make significant changes in the Texas criminal justice system.
For their efforts to improve the system, we all owe them. All of Texas owes them a debt that can never be repaid.
It is our privilege, to honor these two extraordinary men with our Torch of Liberty Award.
Wont you please help me welcome Mr Anthony Graves and Mr. Michael Morton.