Morton memoir details injustice, new life

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Michael Morton’s life among the trees on an East Texas lake is a little slice of Heaven now, but his new memoir, ‘Getting Life,’ details a 25-year Hell in heartbreaking detail.

“I think I wrote it for a couple of reasons, one to show people what I went through,” Morton said. “And also, it’s kind of I can like hand it to my son and it’s like “you were in this, but you didn’t know it.”

Morton’s son, Eric, was only three years old when his mother was killed and his father wrongfully convicted of her murder and sentenced to life in prison. Eventually, his mother’s sister adopted Eric, who decided as a teenager, he no longer wanted a relationship with his father, a moment Morton details in his new memoir.

“He was my idol, my light at the end of the tunnel,” Morton said with a smile. “He was the reason I got up every morning for me to get through this. Everyone and everything else seemed to be taken away or gone or just untouchable, but he was always what I looked forward to or what I counted on. He was my reason.”

His son is a central theme in the book, in which Morton talks in more detail about his relationship with his wife, Christine, and their time as a family with Eric. He also shares a great deal about his time in prison and the ups and downs of his legal appeals over the years.

Michael Morton sat down with KXAN's Shannon Wolfson. You can watch her full inter view above.
Michael Morton sat down with KXAN’s Shannon Wolfson. You can watch her full inter view above.

In 1987, a jury convicted Morton of beating his wife to death. It took almost a quarter century to prove prosecutors hid evidence that could have cast doubt on Morton’s guilt and then years later, refused to test a piece of evidence that turned out to be the smoking gun in the case against the real killer– Mark Norwood– a man police say went on to kill another woman after Morton’s conviction.

Norwood was convicted of Christine Morton’s murder in 2013 and is currently awaiting trial for the murder of Debra Masters Baker, in Austin.

Ken Anderson, the District Attorney who prosecuted Morton, was found guilty of withholding evidence. He lost his law license, resigned his position as a state District Judge in Williamson County and spent five days in jail for his part in Morton’s wrongful conviction.

John Bradley, the former Williamson County District Attorney who refused, for seven years, to allow the additional DNA testing that ultimately set Morton free, lost his bid for re-election.

Those are the facts people who follow his story have come to know, but Morton says his revelations about life after his exoneration may be what surprises many readers.

“I like the epilogue best. Everybody knows the tragedy and the dark spots and the low valleys and all that stuff, but I like the epilogue best because it talks about my new life, my wife, living here,” Morton said as he looked around at his new home on the lake.

In March 2013, Morton married Cynthia Chessman, a woman he met at church shortly after his release from prison. The two recently moved in to the home on the lake in a private, gated community in East Texas, where Morton says he wrote a lot of his new book, with the help of journals he kept over the years.

“There’s nothing better in the morning than coming out on this deck and holding Cynthia’s hand and drinking a cup of coffee and watching all the critters start coming awake.

He has also re-connected with his son and since his release, has twice become a grandfather.

“I am hoping in the years ahead I can re-live at least a piece of Eric’s childhood by watching their children grow up. I want to be a good Grandpa,” Morton read from the Epilogue of his memoir. “I don’t know about you, but I like a happy ending and I have a happy ending.”

‘Getting Life: An Innocent Man’s 25-Year Journey from Prison to Peace’ will be released July 8, 2014, but is currently available for pre-order.

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