VIDEO: TX man loses 25 years of life behind bars for wife's murder, DNA proves his innocence
POSTED: Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 3:12pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 7:01pm
Texas (CNN) — In 1987, a Texas man was convicted of murdering his wife.
Michael Morton spent the next 25 years behind bars, cut off from the world, eventually losing contact with his son.
Then, finally, DNA evidence proved what Morton had claimed all along, he was innocent.
"When I first got to Texas penitentiary, the first thing they do is they strip you naked and search you," said Morton. "As I was standing in line to get my boots, I noticed the guy in front of me and I counted 13 stab wounds in his back."
At just 32-years-old, life as Morton knew it was over. His wife, family and dreams were gone.
He was now a murderer and his reality was prison. His new life goal was to survive.
"I am probably the personification of that old axiom, remember from school," said Morton. "That you can't prove a negative, how do you prove you didn't do something?"
Morton was trying to prove he didn't beat his wife Christine to death on August 13, 1986. There was no evidence placing him at the crime scene and no murder weapon.
His three-year-old son who witnessed the murder even told police his daddy didn't do it, but that statement and other details absolving Morton didn't come out until years later, while he remained locked up.
When asked how it was inside prison walls, Morton answered, "I never liked it, but I got used to it."
Morton said it took him around 14 or 15 years to get used to being with behind bars.
"The first years are hard just because it's a shock and it's new and it's a constant adjustment," said Morton. "Constant recalibration."
He says as life behind bars began to take away his sense of self, what he missed the most was his son, Eric, who was growing up without him.
"Yeah, my son, for me, he ended up being more than just my child," said Morton. "As I began losing pieces of myself, my reputation, my assets, most of my friends. As those things diminish, my son's importance rose just if nothing else supply and demand. To me, I'm was a starving man looking at some food on the other side. And i'm just eating it up and it's great and it's wonderful. I've since found out, he's looking at me as this guy who doesn't really exist in his life. Somebody he just sees once in a while."
Morton says his son suspended the visits and eventually he found out that he had changed his name and been adopted.
"Few things are as powerful to a parent as the abject rejection of their child," claimed Morton.
Morton always maintained his innocence, and on the outside, his attorneys hadn't given up on his case.
"I don't keep the files of all the cases I've tried," said Morton's lawyer. "I kept Michael's file. Michael's case was different and on almost every level, particularly an emotional level with me. I cross-examine people for a living. I have a pretty good sense of when someone is lying to me, not always but most of the time. There was nothing about this man that did not speak about actual innocence."
Finally, in 2004, there was progress. Attorneys for the Innocence Project began working with Morton, and they thought they had a chance.
"It's difficult for me to say whether it was just faith that I knew I was right and I wasn't guilty, that this would work out, or just that I didn't know how deep I was in," said Morton.
Then came the breakthrough, a request for DNA testing on a piece of evidence that would eventually unravel the case against Morton.