Senator Ellis Press Release

For Immediate Release
May 16, 2013
Contact: Jeremy Warren, 512-463-0113

Michael Morton Act Now Law

Governor Perry signs landmark reform of Texas' discovery statute

(Austin, Texas) — The Texas House today passed SB 1611, the Michael Morton Act, landmark reform revamping Texas' discovery statute for the first time since 1965. The reform legislation now goes to the governor's desk.

The legislation by Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), Senator Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) and Representative Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) will create a more reliable justice system by ensuring all relevant evidence is revealed. It creates a uniform, statutory "open file" criminal discovery policy for the State of Texas.

"This is an incredible day for justice in Texas," said Ellis. "We must weigh all relevant evidence and ensure we bring all the relevant facts to light to safeguard the innocent, convict only the guilty, and provide justice the people of Texas can have faith in."

"This is an incredible day for justice in Texas," said Ellis. "Texas now joins the rest of the nation in ensuring all relevant evidence and all relevant facts will be brought to light to safeguard the innocent, convict only the guilty, and provide justice the people of Texas can have faith in."

Monday marked the 50th anniversary of one of the most important criminal justice rulings of the Supreme Court. On May 13, 1963 the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in the case of Brady v. Maryland. The case stands for the proposition that the government has a constitutional obligation to disclose all exculpatory evidence and information to the accused.

Justice William O. Douglass wrote -- "Society wins not only when the guilty are convicted, but when criminal trials are fair; our system of the administration of justice suffers when any accused is treated unfairly. The Brady decision was about establishing fundamental fairness in the criminal justice system and making trials a search for truth, rather than lawyering competitions.

SB 1611, the Michael Morton Act, a major step on that path and a leap forward for justice in Texas.

"Passage of SB 1611 will increase transparency and accountability in criminal cases at a stage when we can still prevent wrongful convictions like Mr. Morton's," said Ellis. "I want to thank Mr. Morton for holding our feet to the fire and making this to happen."

Michael Morton spent 25 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, accused and convicted of murdering his wife.

"Mr. Morton could have harbored incredible bitterness and simply tried to rebuild his own life outside of the spotlight, concentrating on himself and his future," said Ellis. "That would be completely understandable. Instead, he has used the stature he has gained as a living testimony of the flaws of our criminal justice system to enact real change and prevent other Texans from sharing his fate.

"We owe a debt of gratitude to Michael Morton -- and the men like him -- that cannot be under-stated, said Ellis. "He reminds us of the flaws in our system and the consequences of injustice. His faith, grace, courage and strength are reminders that humanity can shine through even the darkest and most inhumane treatment, and that hope and belief in the truth can move mountains and save lives."

Top