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This is the second part of a two-part story. The first half can be read here.* * *
“Even though I asked to be transferred here for the master’s program, coming here was a shock,” Michael Morton wrote on January 22, 2002, from his cell in the Ramsey I prison unit, south of Houston. He was replying to a letter he had recently received from Mario Garcia, a former co-worker at the Safeway in Austin where he had worked before being sent to prison fifteen years earlier. Besides his parents and his younger sister—who made the five-hundred-mile round-trip from East Texas to visit when they could—Garcia was the only person from Michael’s previous life who had stayed in contact with him. Virtually everyone else believed that he was guilty. Throughout the fall and winter of 1986, his case had been splashed across the front pages of Central Texas newspapers, earning him a grisly notoriety. “Victim’s Husband Held in Murder Investigation,” the Hill Country News announced in the fall of 1986. “Killing Linked to Sexual Rage,” trumpeted an Austin American-Statesman headline just before he was sentenced to life in prison, in February 1987. The Williamson County Sun announced, “He’s Guilty.” Michael had become a pariah—a “murderous pervert,” as he would ironically refer to himself.
“When I got here, they used to put all new arrivals in the field force,” Michael wrote, referring to inmates who were assigned to work on the prison farm. That had been three years earlier. Now 47, he was ...