Christine Morton murder evidence is focus again in Norwood trial, day 6

Debra Baker, left, and Christine Morton (Family Photos)
Debra Baker, left, and Christine Morton (Family Photos)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The presentation of evidence in the 1986 murder of Christine Morton continued Tuesday in Travis County Court, in the trial for Mark Alan Norwood.

Norwood, 62, is charged with capital murder in the 1988 death of Debra Masters Baker. He has entered a formal not guilty plea.

Norwood was convicted in Christine’s murder in 2013.

Judge Julie Kocurek ruled Monday that the Christine Morton murder case evidence against Norwood is relevant and admissible in trial for Baker’s murder.

On Tuesday morning, a video deposition was played from March 2013 wherein Charles Megliorino, a retired member of the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, testified about his involvement in evidence collection at the Morton murder scene on Aug. 13, 1986.

Megliorino said his evidence collection “specialty” was collecting fingerprints.

“It takes a little bit of training to do that,” explained Megliorino, in the video deposition.

Attorneys in the video deposition questioned Megliorino about certain inconsistencies in his evidence collection and transfer reports. They also asked him why a blue bandana and a paper napkin were packaged together in a single plastic bag.

Evidence packets pictured here show multiple items of evidence discovered in the evidence room at the Williamson Co. Sheriff's Office in 2010.
Evidence packets pictured here show multiple items of evidence discovered in the evidence room at the Williamson Co. Sheriff’s Office in 2010.

Megliorino also testified earlier in the video, that if there was blood on evidence, protocol would have it that they were to put it in a paper bag so as not to contaminate the blood.

Jennifer Smith, the Supervisor of Crime Scene and Evidence for the Williamson Co. Sheriff’s Office, was the first witness to physically take the stand Monday. She testified about her involvement in a “frantic search for evidence in the Christine Morton murder case” in 2010.

Smith said she recovered a blue bandana in a package marked “hairs from victim,” in their evidence room.

“We open up this package expecting hairs and out pops a Ziploc baggy with a blue bandana in it,” explained Smith.

The blue bandana was sent off for analysis.

Jennifer Smith, a senior forensic DNA analyst for UNT’s Center for Human Identification, tested stains on the bandana for blood. Two of six stains tested positive.

Smith was able to develop a DNA profile for the unstained portions of the bandana. Michael Morton was excluded from the unknown male DNA profile she developed.

“The top side of the bandana had the DNA profile that was consistent with Mr. Norwood,” Smith testified.

The prosecution addressed evidence collection concerns in the Morton case, making clear the sequence of the handling of the bandana.

“The issue is going to be whether [the jury] thinks anything happened that would have contaminated it in such a way that it would have created the defendant’s DNA on that bandana,” explained Gary Cobb, an assistant district attorney for Travis County. “That’s not something that’s likely to have happened.”

The prosecution argues the Morton and Baker cases are similar enough to indicate that Mark Norwood committed both crimes.

“When you have a case that depends so much on circumstantial evidence, and is relying on DNA evidence only, it’s important to show someone’s pattern of behavior,” said Gary Cobb, assistant district attorney for Travis County. “When you don’t have an eyewitness, DNA is important. In this particular case, DNA is crucial. Without DNA, there is no case.”

The defense argues that the Morton case is irrelevant.

“Mark Norwood is on trial for the death of Debra Baker, and here we are rehashing 2013 and the trial all over again,” said Brad Urrutia, Mark Norwood’s attorney. “If all they look at is the evidence they’ve heard, with regard to the extraneous burglaries and with regard to the Morton case, then maybe we’re fighting an uphill battle.”

Both the murder of Christine Morton and Debra Baker occurred in Austin. Morton was murdered on Aug. 13, 1986. Baker was murdered on Jan. 13, 1988. The murders happened 12 miles away, 17 months apart.

In 1987, a jury convicted Michael Morton of murdering his wife, Christine Morton. He was exonerated in 2011.

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