Oscar-Nominated Director Working on Documentary Film About Michael Morton Case…

From the Republic:

AUSTIN, Texas — If there is going to be a movie about his wrongful conviction, 25 years in prison and ultimate exoneration, Michael Morton did not want it to begin with the words “Based on a true story.”

PHOTO: FILE - In this March 29, 2012 file photo from Austin, Texas, Michael Morton pauses while speaking to the public for the first time since he was freed from prison after spending nearly 25 years behind bars for a murder he didn't commit.  A documentary feature directed by two-time Academy Award nominee and former Texan Al Reinert,began filming three weeks ago. (AP Photo/Statesman.com, Ralph Barrera, File)  MAGS OUT; NO SALES; INTERNET AND TV MUST CREDIT PHOTOGRAPHER AND STATESMAN.COM

But a documentary feature, particularly one written and directed by two-time Academy Award nominee and former Texan Al Reinert, was something Morton could get behind, and filming began recently.

“Truth is important to me,” he said. “And Al was generous enough to give me a lot of control and truly include me in the way things are done.”

Morton wanted three details to be included in the film: a life-changing conversion experience in prison, a focus on legal-system changes that could prevent future false convictions and an emphasis on his wife, Christine, who was murdered in their Williamson County home in 1986.

“Sometimes my wife gets left out in all the hubbub of me getting out of prison,” he said.

For a quarter-century, only a handful of friends, family and defense lawyers believed Morton did not kill Christine. The case against Morton fell apart last year when new DNA evidence pointed to another suspect and a key piece of forensic evidence — that Christine’s stomach contents pointed to a time of death that implicated only Morton — fell apart under modern scientific scrutiny. He was freed from prison in October.

Filming the documentary began over the Memorial Day weekend in the Georgetown courtroom where Morton was found guilty in 1987.

Morton didn’t expect his return to be a big deal. He was wrong.

“I didn’t think it was haunted or had some kind of evil mojo,” he said. “But actually sitting in there, actually speaking — it was much more emotional than I expected. It really caught me off guard.”

Morton said the overwhelming emotion was one of loss for Christine and his son, Eric, who was 3 when he was arrested and was raised by Christine’s sister.

“We were discussing my wife. They asked me about her, and one of the things pointed out to me is that I never really had time to mourn for her; very soon after her death, I was in survival mode. I sensed some of that,” he said.

“And there was the pain and loss of my son, and just bringing up all that stuff again — people like to think they’re through with it, that they’ve dealt with it OK, that they can move on. But when you have to go back to revisit it — it just caught me off guard.”

Other interviews included Morton’s trial lawyer, William Allison, now a University of Texas law professor; John Raley, one of the lawyers who led efforts for his exoneration; and two jurors from Morton’s 1987 trial.

For Reinert, holding the interviews in the courtroom — which has been restored to its 1920s condition and is no longer in use — was important for more than setting a mood. It helped tell a true story.

“I’ve been in movie business now for about 15 years, and they just don’t do true stories anymore. Hollywood is just not interested in true stories,” Reinert said. “Besides, who’s going to play Michael Morton better than Michael Morton? It just felt like a documentary to me.”

“At the heart of this story is the 25 years he lost through no fault of his own, and you’ve got to feel those 25 years. There’s no easy way to do it,” Reinert said. “It’s a great story in real life, and if we don’t screw it up, it’s going to be a great movie.”

The film’s working title is “An Unreal Dream,” taken from federal appeals court Judge Learned Hand’s 1923 quote: “Our procedure has been always haunted by the ghost of the innocent man convicted. It is an unreal dream.”

Reinert hopes to have a rough draft ready in October so the documentary can be considered for inclusion in the Sundance Film Festival in January. Local producers include Marcy Garriott, Clark Lyda and Jesse Lyda — who teamed up on “The Least of These,” a 2009 documentary examining family detention policies surrounding illegal immigrants at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor — and Austin lawyer Beverly Reeves.

“It’s a rare combination of this deeply moving and compelling story with a born storyteller, which is Al, and an opportunity to use it as a tool to make sure this doesn’t happen to other people,” Garriott said. “It was just an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

2 responses to “Oscar-Nominated Director Working on Documentary Film About Michael Morton Case…

  1. Angel M. Kayona

    I too have a true story to tell. My son was wrongfully convicted just four months ago and three weeks ago was given a life sentence for a murder that he was not even at the scene of. We are from Hawaii and if all the people of this nation could have been there at his trial would have seen an unbelievable trial of corruption in our court rooms and the people who does it with so much pride and evilness all of you would have been shocked to the bone. im telling the truth/ Kilani Deregos trial was so obviously biased, prejudiced and unbelievably corrupted by the prosecutors the judge himself and even his own court appointed attorney.If you want the facts on this story I would be more than happy to share and expose all of it to the public so that people can see the truth behind the legal justice system in Hawaii and how they are letting the public think that they are all about justice and how they do a good job of serving it. In my sons trial “beyond a reasonable doubt did not even exist. There was NONE! When there was proven that there were so many. UNBELIEVABLE! It was more like a live play put on by a bunch of kangaroos! You want to make a movie based on a 17 year old boy who was miles away from the scene of the crime and who had more than three alibis who testified to that at his trial and the jury took less than four hours to and also a judge who dismisses a juror minutes before they go into deliberations who did not asked to be dissmissed but was replaced by an alternate and a very quick verdict. and that is just a tiny fact of it all. My name is Angel Kayona and I am Kilani Deregos mother. Evidence that so clearly showed that it was not him, Evidence that was compared to my son and the real perpertrator that was a photo comparison to the eyewitness description of the suspect matche almost to a 100% of the actuall killer was not allowed in the trial just before the p[ut that same very killer on the witness stand to testify against him. and so much more of the kangaroo court room of the Hawaii State Judiciary system. Live on stage! We are now appealling the conviction and so whoever are interested in knowing all the facts about it my e mail address is: an808angel@yahoo.com. I will be more than happy to share the truth and facts of all that I have just mentioned. Thank you for your taking your time to view this very important issue. Mahalo, Angel M. Kayona.

  2. Pingback: Documentary Demonstrates that Michael Morton’s Case is Not Unique | Wrongful Convictions Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s