Caseload blamed for medical examiner's disputed testimony, autopsies
04/19/2016 5:55 pm PDT
In Austin, Texas, several high-profile murder cases that were thought to be solved are now under question.
Michael Morton was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife. And the evidence that helped put him away? Mushrooms and zucchini.
Morton was wrongfully convicted and completely exonerated. He was released from prison after serving 25 years for killing his wife Christine.
"Thank God this wasn't a capital case, that I only had life," Morton said outside court.
So how did some vegetables help send an innocent man to prison?
The state of Texas says it was the testimony of Dr. Roberto Bayardo, the one-time chief medical examiner for Travis County.
Bayardo says the semi-digested food in Christine's stomach may reveal when she last ate and what time she died. Prosecutors said that gave Michael Morton a window of opportunity to kill. He was convicted primarily on circumstantial evidence.
Decades later Bayardo backs away from his testimony, claiming he was misquoted in the original trial, saying in a sworn statement: "This was not a scientific way to make a determination of time of death."
The prosecutor was accused of that misquote and was convicted of criminal contempt and lost his license to practice law. That is part of what led to Morton's release from prison after serving a quarter of a century behind bars for a crime he did not commit.
Years later cops found Christine's real killer, a Texas drifter named Mark Norwood, convicted and sentenced to life.