Brandi Grissom posts, "Travis County Looks at Possible Norwood Link in Murder," at the Texas Tribune.
The Travis County district attorney’s office is discussing whether to review a 1985 murder case in connection with Mark Norwood, raising new questions about whether another innocent man could be in prison for a murder linked to the former handyman and carpet layer.
Dennis Davis, a former Austin recording studio owner, was convicted last year of murdering his ex-girlfriend Natalie Antonetti in 1985. But the manner in which Antonetti was murdered is eerily similar to the two killings with which Norwood has already been connected.
"That’s why the discussion needs to occur, based on the similarities," Buddy Meyer, a Travis County assistant district attorney, said Friday. Meyer said his office is discussing whether to review the Davis conviction and compare the evidence in the Antonetti murder to the other two murder cases.
Norwood, 57, was arrested in November and charged with the 1986 murder of Christine Morton in North Austin. His DNA, along with Christine Morton's blood, was identified on a blue bandana found near the murder scene. Norwood's DNA was also identified on a pubic hair found at the scene of the 1988 murder of Debra Masters Baker in Austin. He has not been charged in connection with her death but is considered a suspect.
All three women were beaten to death as they slept. The assailant entered their homes in the early morning hours, and all three were bludgeoned with a large, blunt wooden object. The three women were all attractive brunette mothers in their 30s. And each of the murders occurred on the 13th day of the month.
Meanwhile, Morton's lawyers are pursuing a court of inquiry to determine whether the prosecutor who sent him to prison a quarter-century ago committed criminal misconduct.
The article notes that Judge Sid Harle will hold a hearing on February 10 on the question of a court of inquiry.
The Tribune also posts, "Texplainer: What is a Court of Inquiry?" It's written by Holly Heinrich.
Hey, Texplainer: What is a court of inquiry and when is it used?
When Texas district judges have probable cause to believe state laws have been broken, they may ask the district’s presiding administrative judge to appoint another district judge to commence a court of inquiry, which reviews the evidence and could issue an opinion reaffirming or disapproving an earlier opinion. The court of inquiry, which was established in 1876, can be called to review a past case or any other criminal matter brought to the district judge.
Courts of inquiry are unique to Texas, although the U.S. military uses a legal proceeding by the same name to investigate its internal affairs.
Although the law would allow a district judge to request an inquiry in any instance where state laws may have been broken, Texas judges have in recent years used this obscure and once seldom-used provision to investigate possible wrongful convictions. Courts of inquiry have also been used to investigate a prostitution ring and reports of bribery in a county probate court.
So why request a court of inquiry instead of going to the police or taking a more typical route through the legal system? The reasons vary from case to case, but individuals could seek courts of inquiry because they believe there is corruption or potential conflicts of interest in the legal or law enforcement institutions they would otherwise turn to. Courts of inquiry can also review evidence that would not be admitted to other courts, such as hearsay.
Earlier coverage of the Michael Morton exoneration begins at the link.