Mark Alan Norwood: The story behind the story


 
 Mark Alan Norwood

 
The arrest of Mark Alan Norwood for the brutal murder of Christine Morton in 1986 opens yet another chapter in an ongoing saga of fast-breaking news amid tragedy which is interwoven with a great deal of history.

The Wilco WatchDog, in providing information about this major case to our readers, has tried to do more than just push out the boilerplate news and announcements by various sources. We have also published in-depth analyses of key evidence, including the all-important and still emerging depositions which are beginning conducted to shed light on how an innocent man, Michael Morton, was convicted and sent to prison for 24 years. 

 

We've also kept “score” of the various adversarial encounters between Morton's lead attorney, John Raley, and Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley in what we've designated as “The Battle of the Johns”.  That score now stands at Raley 17, Bradley 1. (Score one for bagging Norwood yesterday)

 

Amid all of the furor over breaking news, especially with the capture of Norwood, it's important not to forget two key categories of individuals in this long-running series of tragedies: (1) the many victims, and (2) the long list of actors who participated, either separately or together, in creating those victims.

 

The list of victims includes:

 

Christine Morton, murdered in her home.

 

Debra Baker, murdered in her home.

 
Any other victims (and there are many), whether murdered, assaulted, robbed, or otherwise victimized by Norwood, while Michael Morton sat in jail and the real killer of these women remained on the loose because the prosecutors of Morton had convinced everyone, including the jury, that they had found Christine's killer in 1986.

The family members and friends of Christine Morton, Debra Baker, and the family and friends of anyone else that this killer may have victimized.

 

The jury, which was misled by closing arguments involving time of death in a heart-rending demonstration at Morton's trial which displayed the food prepared for her last meal, along with a process which withheld from their consideration key evidence which would have exonerated Morton.


The criminal justice system and reputation of Williamson County, which has taken a severe hit as a result of a few actors who chose to ignore its basic principles and precepts.

The public, which placed its trust in a concept of blind justice which didn't function properly and which sent the wrong man to prison.

The media, which covered the trial in 1987 and wasn't told the true facts about all the evidence in the case.


A special victim, Eric Morton, the three-year-old son of Christine and Michael Morton, who witnessed the murder, who wandered alone around the murder scene for hours while his mother lay dead and his father was at work, and whose straightforward account of the murder which would have exonerated his father was buried with other exculpatory evidence so the jury wouldn't see it.

Michael Morton himself, who not only lost his wife in a horrible crime but also lost a relationship with his son along with 24 years of his life while locked up in prison for a crime he didn't commit.


Jesse and Caitlin Baker, who lost their mom to the injustice of a wrongful conviction that now appears to have been intentional.

Phillip Baker who was vigorously investigated for weeks following his wifes murder. Phillip and Debra were separated at the time but they remained great friends. Phillip lost his best friend and struggled for many, many years to provide for Jesse and Caitlin as a single parent.

The list of those who either played or may have played some role in creating these victims includes:

Mark Alan Norwood, (in light of the principle of being innocent until being proved guilty), the real killer.

 

Sgt. Don Wood, the investigator for the Williamson County Sheriff's Department who apparently didn't follow up on leads thoroughly and who apparently didn't follow the trial proceedings with sufficient thoroughness to figure out that key, important evidence he apparently knew about was withheld from the jury.
 
Mike Davis, the current private attorney and former second-chair prosecutor who, though being paid as a county employee to participate in the prosecution of this case, apparently knew virtually nothing about it with the exception of telling the jury after the trial that if Wood's inch-thick file had been revealed to jury members, there may have been “reasonable doubt” regarding Morton's guilt.

Ken Anderson, the current district judge and former district attorney and former first-chair prosecutor who (according to Davis) had full control of the case and who was supposed to have turned over all the exculpatory evidence to the judge—evidence which apparently didn't make it into the judge's hands.


Pct 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman and District Judge Ken Anderson


John Bradley
, the current district attorney who fought for several recent years to keep the critical, exculpatory evidence from being released to Morton's attorneys, even to the extent of forcing the Texas Court of Appeals to rule against him before he would release the evidence. And it is incredulous—even beyond ironic—that Bradley touts on his website how he uses DNA evidence to prosecute cases quickly, yet for years he resisted DNA testing of the important blue bandana in the Morton case.

Wilco DA John Bradley

Not necessarily placed in the above list are two men who have passed away. Sheriff Jim Boutwell worked very closely with Anderson on the case (according to Davis) and received all the reports about the case generated by Sgt. Wood on any days when reports were created. Judge William S.

Lott presided over the trial and was responsible for reviewing the exculpatory evidence to determine whether it should be turned over to Morton's defense attorneys in preparation for the trial, and who placed evidence in a sealed file held at the Third Court of Criminal Appeals. When that sealed file was opened, it contained only a few inconsequential pages and certainly not the inch-thick file that had been described by Davis, or more the “4 inch thick file” described by Wood. Whatever their roles may have been, Boutwell and Lott are not placed in the above list at this point because they are not able to be here to explain their roles in what happened.
 
                                                              * *

It's also important to cite the existence of a third list. It's a list that's probably going to grow as these events continue to unfold. It could be called a list of advocates for justice. Topping that list is Morton's attorneys, John Raley of Raley and Bowick of Houston, Texas, Nina Morrison with the Innocence Project of New York and other support staff  whose relentless, pro bono efforts not only exonerated Michael Morton but also achieve something else.

 
Their initiative, which resulted in matching the DNA from the Christine Morton murder to the DNA from the Debra Baker murder, could well result in solving both of those cases. If John Raley and his associates had not pursued their years-long, not-to-be-denied efforts to prevail over John Bradley's resistance to releasing the bandana and other evidence, both of these horrific crimes would have remained unsolved, and the real murderer might still be walking the streets.


The Office of the Attorney General who picked up the dropped ball and investigated this case which led to the arrest of Norwood.

 

There are several others on this list as well, including all the friends and family members of the Morton and Baker and families who have remained so steadfast and so patient for so long. Michael’s mom, dad and other family members who stood alongside him for 24 years as he maintained his innocence while in prison.


Eric's grandmother, who painstakingly talked with the three-year-old about his eyewitness observations of the murder which resulted in a recorded conversation with Sgt. Wood, thereby producing the transcript which has become a key piece of previously-suppressed but now-released evidence in Morton's exoneration is also to be commended.

 

In addition, the blue bandana containing the DNA of Christine Morton's killer was found and turned in by Morton's brother-in-law. So, of the four primary pieces of exculpatory evidence that ultimately freed Michael Morton (the bandana, the transcript of Eric's account of the murder, the use of Christine's credit card and the cashing of the check made out to Christine with the forged endorsement), two of those four items were actually brought forward by citizens.

 

If John Raley and his associates had not undertaken their efforts, an innocent man would not have been freed from prison, and two murder cases would have remained unsolved and the “presumed” killer would still be on the loose. John Raley was an offensive lineman back in his college football days and knows what it takes to finish a hard fought game. But, he also knows this game is far from over. No doubt he is exhausted from the efforts of his opponents, but he should be commended for holding his hand up, raising four fingers as he heads into the fourth quarter.

 

                                             John Raley and John Bradley

This game is far from over. The streets are much safer after yesterday’s arrest but now it’s time to see that what happened to Michael Morton never happens again. It’s time to see that those responsible for this travesty of justice pay a heavy price

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Comments

  • 11/10/2011 4:14 PM Caitlin wrote:
    Great summary. Thanks Watchdog.
    Reply to this
  • 11/10/2011 4:31 PM Brushy Creek Resident wrote:
    watchdog, i have been reading your site for a little over a month now and each time i get notified of a new post my stomach sinks. i am so ashamed of what is going on in my county. i am so ashamed of the lack of honesty, concern or care by the leaders of our county towards the citizens and regarding taxpayer money by these people. i cannot imagine what the cost will be to Michael Morton for the corruption of his trial by these heartless, corrupt madmen! Then to see my Commissioner standing beside one of the heartless and corrupt madmen makes me ill. Lisa Birkman you might want to seperate yourself from these people before, if it hasn't already, it tarnishes your reputation. Not that you were ever well liked but this could just be the last straw. i cannot help but to feel nautious when looking at the picture.
    Reply to this
    1. 11/11/2011 2:23 AM Shannon wrote:
      Excellent coverage of this story Watchdog. I agree the pictures are a little nauseating, especially the one you are referring to. I'm a Brushy Creek Resident too. I look forward to voting for someone else during this election. Not that I ever voted for Birkman (I was in Pct. 3 before the precincts were redrawn) but hopefully, the Brushy Creek locals will think twice before casting a vote for her. I'll happily campaign for anyone who is running against her. BTW Birkman... in case you haven't heard, 'birds of a feather flock together.' That buzzard you are standing next to in the picture should be removed from the bench immediately and have his license revoked by the State Bar ASAP.
      Reply to this
  • 11/10/2011 5:13 PM steve wrote:
    This is a great review of how these worms are trying to act as if all is well and forgiven...(Photos help show the arrogance in this "weasel of a group" also know as our elected official)...
    Keep up the great research .
    Reply to this
  • 11/10/2011 6:31 PM Brilliant wrote:
    Birkman standing beside a complete disaster is priceless! Just goes to show just how poor her Commission is to Williamson County. Great journalism, Wilco Watch Dog!
    Reply to this
  • 11/10/2011 6:38 PM Ed Ward wrote:
    Why did Davis leave the DA's office two days after the Morton trial ended??? What is going on with that? Who quits after winning a high profile case while second chairing the big kahuna??? Do we need to dig deeper here? Am I missing something here?
    Reply to this
  • 11/10/2011 6:45 PM Retired from Wilco wrote:
    I could not have said it any better WATCHDOG. The last line was the BEST line (see below).

    On another note: The hard copy of the Statesman this morning said that Anderson's deposition continues tomorrow?? True?


    It’s time to see that those responsible for this travesty of justice pay a heavy price.
    Reply to this
    1. 11/10/2011 7:51 PM Wilco Watchdog wrote:
      Yes, Anderson will be deposed again tomorrow.
      Reply to this
  • 11/10/2011 7:58 PM Retired from Wilco wrote:
    Ed Ward,

    You are NOT alone in wondering the same thing. In Davis Depo he states that he and Anderson are not friends? Great awareness on your part. Watchdog, Oscar, Tawanda, any thoughts on this? Anyone else?
    Reply to this
  • 11/11/2011 2:08 AM the Killer is NOW in JAIL wrote:
    The Innocence Project first compared Mildred McKinney's Murder in 1980 to Christine Morton's Murder in 1986. These women lived a short distance from each other. Both women were beaten to death in their bedrooms. Both were attacked so severely in their beds that blood splattered nearby walls. And both bodies were covered by household items —McKinney by a reclining chair, small table and vacuum cleaner, and Morton by a suitcase, bedding and a wicker basket. This is not just a coincidence. Why are investigators not examining evidence from all three murders - McKinney, Morton & Baker? The Baker murder occurred in Travis County unlike the other two murders which were in Williamson County. The Baker murder like the McKinney murder is still unsolved.

    Sadly, the major difference between these 3 murders is that in the Morton murder, the husband of the deceased was wrongly convicted and spent a QUARTER OF A CENTURY in jail for a crime he did not commit.

    Good work reporting this story Watchdog! I especially liked the last line of this article: "The streets are much safer after yesterday’s arrest but now it’s time to see that what happened to Michael Morton never happens again. It’s time to see that those responsible for this travesty of justice pay a heavy price." AMEN!
    Reply to this
  • 11/11/2011 10:21 AM RRW wrote:
    Great work Watchdog, keep it up.
    Reply to this
  • 11/11/2011 11:16 AM HSontag wrote:
    Michael MORTON could also be listed as an advocate for justice. He could have been released on parole years ago if he had expressed remorse for a crime that he did not commit. If he had taken that parole, Mark Alan Norwood would likely never have been suspected for either of these murders. MORTON held out for justice. And he did not want to be released from prison if it meant that there would not be an investigation into what actually happened during the prosecution decades ago. He's a hero to me.
    Reply to this
  • 11/11/2011 1:22 PM jeff wrote:
    I'm writing to give a shout out to the williamson co. citizens who are outraged at the long term and probably ongoing injustice in williamson co. for most folks,and the softball sentences for the well connected... ie.. a local police chiefs daughter...a local vet and mismanneged money and alleged neglected animals???... Thank you for not being afraid of these narrcisistic PEOPLE"...THEY NEED TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE... I suggest a protest at the steps of the courthouse... I suggest full support of opposing canditates if there are any survivors of this investigation and a review of ALL cases these "people" have had a part of.. all local defense atty's jump on board with wilco watchdog and fear no longer,these folks,and take your stories to the STATE BAR.. NOW.. NOW.. NOW.. wilco watchdog can't go it alone... LETS ROLLLL...........
    Reply to this
  • 11/11/2011 2:57 PM Sooner Fan wrote:
    Oh my goodness sakes...I just saw the picture of Lisa Lackey standing next to Ken Anderson. She is so clueless to the ignorance of her actions. I hope the taxpayers in her precinct come out in full force to remove her from office as well as the cronies who threw Mr Morton behind bars all over lies.
    Reply to this
  • 11/14/2011 10:51 AM SaddenedWilcoResident wrote:
    To any and all voters of Williamson County, whether Democrat, Republican, Independent--but most importantly a Christian--There is no way you can return these incumbents to office. They have destroyed some many lives for their evil gains.
    Reply to this
  • 11/16/2011 7:31 PM Joni Weber wrote:
    At the time of Christine's murder, I lived across the street from her backyard. I was concerned that someone working on construction of nearby houses might have been the murderer. Does anyone know if this guy, Mark Alan Norwood worked construction?
    I was very surprised that no one from the sheriff's department ever came to ask if we'd seen anything that day. There were lots of empty, wooded lots behind their house at the time, which would have been the perfect way to enter a home undetected. Our house was the only inhabited house with a view of their backyard. But no one ever bothered to ask if we'd seen anything. I guess they thought they had this case wrapped up from day one.
    Reply to this
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