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Prosecution, Defense Make Opening Statements In Norwood Trial
by Brandi Grissom, Texas Tribune
SAN ANGELO - Making her opening statement Tuesday morning in the murder trial of Mark Norwood, special prosecutor Lisa Tanner told jurors that the state would show that Norwood was connected to Christine Morton's 1986 murder by DNA found near the crime scene and by a pistol that he's accused of stealing from the Mortons' North Austin home and sold to another man.
Norwood, 58, a former Bastrop dishwasher, is accused of the beating death of Christine Morton, a crime for which her husband Michael Morton, was wrongfully convicted in 1987 and spent nearly 25 years in prison. Norwood, who faces life in prison if convicted, has insisted that he is innocent of the murder. The prosecution and defense both gave their opening statements Tuesday morning, and Michael Morton was the first witness to take the stand.
In her opening statement, which lasted about an hour, Tanner didn't mention Michael Morton's time in prison. But she detailed the DNA evidence that connects Norwood to the crime.
She said that Norwood was the intruder who killed Christine Morton. "The intruder has been unmasked," she said. "That unidentified man who [Michael Morton] always knew was there is her."
She also told jurors details about the Morton family and said they were living the American dream until the murder. She added that it’s taken decades for the forensic science to catch up to where Norwood could be identified. She asked jury to hold him accountable. "It’s time," she said. "It's been a long time, and it's here."
In a brief opening statement, Norwood attorney Ariel Payan of Austin said that his heart goes out to the Morton family, but he reminded jurors they have to put their feelings aside and do their job of weighing the evidence in the case. He said that there are only two issues in the case: "Contamination and liars. That’s it. That’s all this case is."
After the opening statements, Michael Morton took the stand. He told the jury about his life with Christine Morton, their son, Eric, and Eric’s health problems that were on the mend after he had heart surgery.
He described the day before the murder - Michael Morton's birthday - Aug. 12, 1986, when the family celebrated by going out to dinner. The next morning, Morton testified, when he left for work, his wife and son were sleeping. When he left work to pick up 3-year-old Eric from the babysitter about 2 p.m., Eric wasn't there. He called home. The Williamson County sheriff was at his house and told him to come immediately.
When he arrived, the sheriff told him Christine was dead. "I asked if it was murder and he was very matter of fact, and he said 'Yes it was,'" Morton testified.
Morton said that a Colt combat commander .45-caliber pistol was stolen from their home, and he's never seen it since. He said he told officers to look for an intruder.
Morton's testimony will continue Tuesday. Norwood's trial is expected to last two weeks. Williamson County state district Judge Burt Carnes moved the case to Tom Green County because of extensive media coverage of the Morton case in Central Texas.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2013/03/19/prosecution-defense-make-opening-statements-norwoo/.