Texas Appleseed works to improve access to justice by improving criminal discovery practices across the state. Prior to 2014, Texas law required minimal disclosure of information by prosecutors to defendants — they largely determined whether to share critical evidence, such as witness statements and police reports, with the defense before trial. Yet, the failure to disclose information to the defense can lead to wrongful convictions, like that of Michael Morton, who spent 25 years in prison for a crime he did not commit after the prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense. In 2013, Texas Appleseed and the Texas Defender Service, with the assistance of Locke Lord LLP, published a report highlighting the uneven discovery practices in Texas. This report was used to help pass the Michael Morton Act.
With the enactment of the Michael Morton Act, which took effect in January 2014, Texas law governing criminal discovery was overhauled, requiring broader disclosure of information to the defense. Working with Texas Defender Service and with the pro bono support of attorneys at Locke Lord LLP, Texas Appleseed is monitoring the implementation of the law across the state.
- Report: Examination of Policies and Practices. Texas Appleseed and Texas Defender Service release a joint report, Towards More Transparent Justice: The Michael Morton Act's First Year. The report is a review of landmark legislation, the Michael Morton Act, passed in 2013 by the Texas Legislature and which went into effect on January 1, 2014. Report released April 8, 2015.
- Passage of Michael Morton Act. The Michael Morton Act was signed into law in May 2013 by Gov. Rick Perry, and took effect in 2014. It requires prompt and broad disclosure of information held by the prosecution in all criminal cases, and was designed to formalize and regularize the process of criminal discovery throughout the state. Working with Texas Defender Service, Texas Appleseed’s report on Texas’ discovery law helped lay the foundation for the passage of this Act.