Senate Passes Michael Morton Act
Ellis/Duncan landmark reform revamps Texas' discovery statute for first time in half century
(Austin, Texas)—The Texas Senate today passed SB 1611, the Michael Morton Act, landmark reform revamping Texas' discovery statute for the first time since 1965.
The legislation by Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and Senator Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) will provide for a reliable justice system by ensuring that all relevant evidence that speaks to a defendant's innocence or guilt is revealed. It creates a uniform, statutory "open file" criminal discovery policy for the State of Texas.
"This is an historic 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."
"I have long been an advocate for an efficient, effective and uniform court system across Texas. This legislation is a giant step forward in reaching that goal," Duncan said. "I am proud that stakeholders from across the state were able to come together and set aside their differences to improve our criminal justice system."
The legislation is the culmination of weeks of talks between stakeholders and relevant parties who put countless hours into this effort with Senators Ellis, Duncan, West, Huffman and Whitmire, their staff, judges, particularly Judge Barbara Hervey, prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys, the Governor's office, Thomas Ratliff, Michael Morton and his attorneys, and more. Each of these men, women, and organizations put the interests of justice ahead of self-interest, and by coming together helped created a truly historic justice reform.
"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 happen. Without his character, heart and leadership, the bill would certainly have died."