April 30th 2013
A Brave and Courageous Act: Jason Collins and Texas Judge Louis Sturns
Jason Collins is Gay and Judge Sturns Issues Warrant for Former Prosecutor for Prosecuting an Innocent Man.
Jason Collins is gay. He is Black and Gay and a professional basketball player. Jason Collins is said to be the first active professional athlete to admit that he is gay. He revealed this in the recent edition of Sports Illustrated. Judge Louis Sturns is a conservative, Republican judge in Texas, a state known for its high number of executions and a tough on crime mentality. He was appointed by Governor Perry; he is Black, conservative, and a Texas Judge. When Judge Louis Sturns issued an arrest warrant for a fellow Texas judge who, as prosecutor, withheld key material that led to Michael Morton spending 25 years of his life in prison, he performed a brave, but necessary, act.
Former President Bill Clinton, whose daughter Chelsea went to Stanford University with Jason Collins, said the following as reported by ABC News: “It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities,” Clinton wrote in a statement. “For so many members of the LGBT community, these simple goals remain elusive. I hope that everyone, particularly Jason’s colleagues in the NBA, the media and his many fans extend to him their support and the respect he has earned.” http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/04/bill-clinton-praises-jason-collins-on-athletes-coming-out/
President Barack Obama took time out of his schedule to call Jason Collins to say that he was impressed by his courage and First Lady Obama tweeted “So proud of you, Jason Collins! This is a huge step forward for our country. We’ve got your back! –mo” from her twitter account.
Neither made a public statement about Judge Sturns and the Texas Inquiry Commission and their investigation of an individual who distorted the very system of justice that we value and respect. The State acknowledging a wrong and issuing an arrest warrant for a sitting judge who stole 25 years of a man’s life is huge. I have NEVER IN MY LIFE seen this occur, and I follow wrongful convictions closely. It was epic! A judge was saying to the public that we will not tolerate this, even if it is one of our own committing a horrendous act. Judge Sturns’ demonstration of bravery and courage is very refreshing, it brought tears to the eyes of those of us who know people who have been wrongfully convicted. Judge Sturns’ action may not result in many prosecutors coming out in favor of truth and justice versus the conviction, or a sea of change in the convict at all cost game of far too many prosecutors/District Attorneys play, but it does emboldened the wrongfully convicted and those fighting on their behalf that they should never give up. Dr. King is quoted as saying that the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice. This is what we saw at the end of Michael Morton’s 25 year battle when the person responsible for his unjust incarceration was arrested for it.
Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully
Jason Collins said that part of his reason for revealing that he is gay is the impact the Boston Marathon Bombing had on him- “Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?” (http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/29/17971190-nba-center-jason-collins-comes-out-im-black-and-im-gay?lite)
He is absolutely right and Clinton and Obama are right to applaud people perceived to be brave in taking a step that may not be received well. I would like for Barack Obama and Bill Clinton to praise Judge Sturns and the Texas Inquiry Commission for their work on reviewing the work of a prosecutor that led to Michael Morton spending 25 years in prison for crimes he did not commit (http://wrongfulconvictionsblog.org/2013/04/19/judge-issues-arrest-warrant-for-former-prosecutor-in-michael-morton-case/ ). Judge Louis Sturns of Forth Worth, TX issuing a warrant for the arrest of Ken Anderson said the following, as reported by the Statesman newspaper:
In a blunt and scathing ruling, District Judge Louis Sturns said Anderson acted to defraud the trial court and Morton’s defense lawyers, resulting in an innocent man serving almost 25 years in prison.
“This court cannot think of a more intentionally harmful act than a prosecutor’s conscious choice to hide mitigating evidence so as to create an uneven playing field for a defendant facing a murder charge and a life sentence,” Sturns said. http://www.statesman.com/news/news/local/ken-anderson-court-of-inquiry-resumes/nXRLm/
Morton wasn’t in contention for million dollar contracts, he did not know a President of the United States who could give him encouragement as he endured his nightmare, and he could not decide when he would do simple things such as when to shower and when to eat, let alone the freedom to do anything, while being accused of a horrible crime, the murder of his wife. For 25 years he endured life as a convicted and imprisoned murderer. He was the victim’s family while also being the convicted innocent. And when he was released and exonerated, he maintained dignity, integrity and optimism, even though he was innocent and incarcerated for 25 years. He didn’t ask for anything but justice. Prosecutors need to come out in favor of truth and justice even if it means admitting that an innocent person had been convicted. Ken Anderson and his successor were responsible for Michael Morton spending far too long in prison, the Texas Court of Inquiry and Judge Sturns were responsible for just a little bit of justice being directed towards Morton and others in the system.
Addressing Wrongful Convictions Should Be a National Priority
I don’t begrudge Jason Collins for admitting who he is, more power to him, I would just like to see President Obama, whose Justice department has come under fire for its role in wrongful convictions (http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-04-16/local/35453369_1_hair-and-fiber-fbi-lab-benjamin-herbert-boyle) and Bill Clinton, who played the tough on crime game to get elected, to also say something about the Michael Morton case, the Ken Anderson arrest, and what it means for the system of justice. Please, dear President and Former President, the many innocent people languishing in prison and the many exonerated would at least like to see some acknowledgement that the system has failed them and that the arrest of a prosecutor who withheld evidence that led to an innocent man spending 25 years of his life in prison is one small step towards the giant leap we must take to ensure that innocent people aren’t convicted and incarcerated. I have said before that of all the people I’ve seen invited to the White House, I have yet to see the many men and women who were innocent and exonerated invited to the White House. The Innocence Project reached its 300th person exonerated via DNA evidence last year, I’m not sure if any of them got public encouragement from former and current presidents; that would also be a huge step for our country.