My name is Michael Morton. I was wrongly convicted of murdering my wife in 1987. I spent almost 25 years (24 years and 7 months, to the day) in the Texas prison system before being exonerated and freed in 2011. I got out because of the efforts of the Innocence Project, pro bono lawyer John Raley, and advances in DNA technology. I am now remarried and live on a lake in rural East Texas. My book Getting Life was released yesterday, July 8th, 2014. The documentary of my ordeal is entitle "An Unreal Dream." Ask me anything.

My Proof:

Comments: 386 • Responses: 26  • Date: 

NO_NO_ICLEAN103 karma

How hard was it day to day knowing you were innocent?

MichaelMorton196 karma

At first, it was unbelievable. Then, it was maddening. But as the days, months, and years piled up, I had to accept it. It wasn't fair…but as we all learn, life ain't fair. As long as I had something to look forward to, I could continue. If a prisoner ever loses hope, it is over. Some men just hang themselves or jump of the third tier. It isn't pretty, but it's a part of prison.

karmanaut70 karma

What was the most unusual and interesting conversation you ever had with another inmate?

MichaelMorton128 karma

The most unusual: hearing the rationalization for cutting off the tip one's own tongue. The most interesting: hearing the stories armed robbers tell.

karmanaut39 karma

What was the rationalization?

MichaelMorton113 karma

He had bitten his tongue so badly that a "plug" of meat hung from the tip. He hated going to the infirmary so much that instead of going there for treatment and putting up with the people there, he took a pair of fingernail clippers and snipped off the dangling meat. It was one of the more outlandish things I witnessed in there. I was quite glad someone that tough was my friend.

YOU_WHITE6 karma

Did it change his speech?

MichaelMorton2 karma

After it healed, not at all. Plus, he was a man of few words. His actions spoke volumes.

HelpMeLoseMyFat56 karma

What was the biggest culture shock to you after getting out ?

MichaelMorton242 karma

This may sound odd, but I am still taken aback when I see how remarkably casual some men dress. I went to a restaurant on Valentine's Day not too long after my release. Most of the women dressed up. But most of the men seemed to be dressed like teenage boys. I am not used to grown men wearing shorts and flip flops in non casual settings. Oh, well.

Okra_Windfury53 karma

Do you still harbor resentment for the DA or prosecutors who unfairly incarcerated you? If you do, why? If you don't, how did you forgive them?

MichaelMorton203 karma

One of my attorneys told me something I'd heard before. Harboring hate and resentment is akin to drinking poison and hoping the other person dies from it. I forgave those who'd harmed me. It was a conscious effort. And it physically helped me. It liberated me spiritually, too. If we want to be forgiven, we must forgive. It's one of the pillars of Judeo-Christian/Western Civ. And it's true.

omgunicornz2 karma

That is very well put. You are incredibly inspiring. So many people would be put in your situation and come out hating the world and everyone in it. I've obviously never been through anything like that, but I'm sure it's absolutely crazy and emotional and confusing. I'm so sorry you had to go through that, but you should be proud of the strong person you are because of it. I wish you the best of luck in the future!

Chopsueme2 karma

I've never even been to prison and still hate the world and everyone in it.

MichaelMorton3 karma

Ease up. Life's too short. Treat others as you want to be treated. It's a successful, proven, and liberating way to live. Life should be lived!

TheOrangeBananaNinja44 karma

Have you thought about sueing the state/is that possible in your case?

MichaelMorton102 karma

For all its much-publicized flaws, Texas has the most generous compensation package in the country. I could have sued, but it would have taken years and there is no guarantee of success. I accepted the standard compensation offered by Texas law.

Fifeman49 karma

For the lazy, out of towners, can I ask what the compensation was?

MichaelMorton203 karma

It's $80K per year incarcerated, plus after a year of freedom an annuity kicks in that gives the exoneree a monthly income. As I said, Texas has the most generous compensation package in the country.

Ozymandias366 karma

Wow that's freakishly progressive of Texas.

MichaelMorton5 karma

That's one of the cool things about what's happened to me. It transcends political party, ideology, and eye color. EVERYONE dislikes injustice.

canquilt4 karma

Were you required to pay Federal taxes on your settlement payments?

MichaelMorton2 karma

The IRS treats such compensation as they do, say, a worker's comp payment: no federal income taxes. It's another blessing I've received and appreciate.

MadamLurkess14 karma

I don't know if I could have been the bigger person if I was in your position. I think I would have took the state for everything it's worth and then some.

MichaelMorton134 karma

Revenge doesn't work too well on a personal level. Forgiveness, having a purpose, and accountability do just fine.

actonesceneone2 karma

I agree. To a point. I think if you did pursue this and successfully take these people for every last penny it wouldn't be so much about you getting a "pay day" but more about setting an example for others who are or possibly going to go through an ordeal like you did! Thanks and good luck to you.

MichaelMorton5 karma

To be honest, I considered it. But people -- regular, average people -- were so kind to me that I decided not to. After all, THEIR taxes would go up to cover the cost, not those who actually mistreated me.

hippopotapants40 karma

Were you able to keep up with changes in technology while in prison, or were you released into a world that was difficult to navigate due to advances in tech?

MichaelMorton164 karma

There was next to no way to stay current with technology on the inside. However, once released, I found that I missed the days of walking around with a phone the size of a brick, searching for a signal. My first phone was an iPhone and my first computer was a MacBook. Basically, I stepped into an episode of Star Trek where everything just seemed to work. It's been a semi easy transition.

itwasquiteawhileago36 karma

I just quickly read about your background/case. One thing that struck me was that the DNA technology that eventually led to your release was around in 2005. What isn't clear, is why the prosecution would not allow the DNA test. Why, for six years, did they actively fight the test? What was to be gained?

I have to think that if I was a prosecutor, and I was sure of a conviction, that a new DNA test would just prove my point. Sure, there's costs associated with that, but as a lawyer who is supposed to serve the public interest, I would want to know with certainty. Any chance an innocent man is in jail, and I'd want to know that as well.

For argument's sake, the prosecution did the best job they could with what they had at the time, but if new evidence and technologies come to light, where exactly is the harm in following up to close that loop? Is this just an ego thing, or what? If I could release a man I possibly wrongly helped put in prison, you better believe I'd cooperate with that process to the best of my abilities.

Or, in this case, is it strictly because Anderson allegedly tampered with evidence and he was worried he'd get caught if the DNA was tested? Which raises a whole other series of questions about why someone would do that in the first place, but I don't suppose we'll ever truly have an answer to such a question.

Glad you're free. Equally glad you weren't put on death row for "your" crimes. Who knows how many innocent people have been executed arbitrarily. At least your sentence was reversible.

idonthavearedditacct12 karma

I didn't read the case, but if he spent 25 years in jail and got out in 2011, in 2005 he would have been in jail 19 or 20 years already.

At that point he has already been tried and convicted so long ago, why would they want to introduce any new evidence into a 20 year old case? They can't and don't need to convict him again, so it would have no benefit to anyone besides the convicted to allow it. The only way it could possibly change anything is if it would prove his innocence, and that just creates a hassle for them.

MichaelMorton2 karma

The kicker is that in my case the Innocence Project was willing to pay all costs. It would have cost the state absolutely nothing. There was nothing to lose and everything to gain.

PrancingGophers33 karma

What was it like transitioning from life as you knew it in 1987, to life in 2011?

MichaelMorton100 karma

The transition from 1987 to 2011 was not as drastic as you might imagine. While there were technological advances, I found that people are still people -- they hadn't changed. Generosity and the kindness of others has helped me more than I ever dreamed.

Harkimo5 karma

What things did you stay up to date with? Music, news...?

MichaelMorton4 karma

Before I went inside, I was a news junkie. As a prisoner, I did my best to stay abreast of current events -- even when they were a few days or a week old. As you might imagine, I lost touch with fashion. Knowing about the latest movies was useless. So, instead of the usual pop culture awareness, I became an avid reader. I read hundreds of books. Then, I read hundreds more.

Infernode32 karma

Hello, Michael! Thanks for doing the AMA! My question is: Was there a point in your prison sentence when you gave up on proving yourself as innocent and accepting life in prison? Did you ever give up on hope that you would be able to be free in the outside world again?

MichaelMorton66 karma

I wouldn't say I gave up, but I reached a point where I knew my efforts wouldn't do it. I know that the proverbial Hand of God got me out. There were so many outrageous "coincidences" that even the unbelievers I know say that my situation makes them wonder. And that's a good thing.

Infernode26 karma

With myself also being a believer in God, that is an awesome thing to hear. I'm glad things worked out for you.

MichaelMorton29 karma

Me, too. :-)

MadamLurkess29 karma

When in Prison, did the other prisoners have an opinion on your innocence, or was there just a general "Yeah sure we're all innocent here" type mentality?

Did you make any lasting friendships in prison, considering the amount of time you were incarcerated?

MichaelMorton68 karma

The "we're all innocent" mentality doesn't really exist inside. In fact, one's crime -- murder, robbery, whatever -- while not a label of pride, is part of one's penal identity. There's a handful of guys I still write. And once they're out, I touch base with a few. No matter where you go, you meet people you at least kinda/sorta like.

facepalminghomer24 karma

Are you a Rita Hayworth fan?

MichaelMorton29 karma

I assume you're referring to the Shawshank movie. If so, know this: that movie is nothing like prison in Texas. In fact, while the movie is entertaining, most prisoners dismiss its predictable representation of penal life and just focus on the story.

AlexBerghe20 karma

Who's the person that inspires you the most ? :D

MichaelMorton92 karma

I am not stooping to cliche when I say that the words, the actions, and the person of Jesus Christ inspire, gut-check, and help me every single day.

Unturned12 karma

Kind of a follow up question to this answer. If you have time.

Do you think there are people that genuinely find religion or are able to change in prison to become better people or is religion type coping mechanism/type of pretend that prisoners use to survive/ get out of prison?

Like wise were you religious before you went to prison?

MichaelMorton2 karma

Some of America's first penitentiaries were what you might call "houses of penitence." They were started by religious folks. Inner examination and personal inventories were thought to provide the POTENTIAL for self improvement and a new life. So, to answer your question…as in all of life, it works for some and not for others. But before anything, one has to be a true seeker of the truth.

johnnynoname1218 karma

how many days/hours after you found out that you were wrongly incarcerated did you think about how much money you were gonna make on the lawsuit?

Be honest

MichaelMorton124 karma

In all candor, I was a little overwhelmed at first to focus on money. If I had had the choice, though, of accepting the money in exchange for losing my wife, my son, and all those years -- plus being stripped naked and thrown in prison -- I would NEVER take it. The money helps me now, but it is a horrid, piddling, and inadequate exchange for what happened.

HTBallard15 karma

Mr. Morton, I saw you at a screening of "An Unreal Dream" at SXSW last year. What was it like filming with Al Reinert, and when were you first approached to make the documentary?

MichaelMorton15 karma

Working with Al was a real eye-opener. Al is so good and has been doing it so long that I sometimes wondered if he really knew what he was doing. He makes it look so effortless that it was hard, at first, to recognize his labors. But once I saw the product on the editing room screen, his genius was self-evident. Al's a master.

ThePeoplesLawyer5 karma

Clearly the Texas criminal justice system is not perfect, but what are your opinions on it? Would you consider the Texas criminal justice system more of a public-spirited tool resulting in greater benefit as a whole, or would you consider it more of revolving door fueled by swift and stern punishment?

In other words, do you think the Texas criminal justice system is "getting the job done"?

MichaelMorton27 karma

Others made Texas's Michael Morton Act a reality. When DAs are persuaded to share all exculpatory evidence, everyone benefits. Accountability matters.