Synopses & Reviews
The shocking true story of a young father who spent twenty-five years in prison for a crime he did not commit—and his eventual exoneration via DNA evidence—and return to life as a free man.
On August 13, 1986, just one day after his thirty-second birthday, Michael Morton left work to pick up his three-year-old son Eric. When he arrived, the babysitter told him Michael’s wife, Chris, had never dropped their boy off. Michael knew instantly something was wrong.
Eric was safe, but Chris Morton had been savagely bludgeoned to death in the couple’s bed—and the Williamson County Sherriff’s office in Texas wasted no time in pinning her murder on Michael, despite an absolute lack of physical evidence. Nearly a quarter century later—following a decade of requests from the Innocence Project lawyers asking for DNA testing—improperly concealed transcripts that included Eric’s insistence that his “Daddy wasn’t there” and other critical details that only a firsthand witness could know were uncovered. The district attorney on Michael’s case never shared that transcript with the defense or, more importantly, the jury.
Imagine spending the days following the sudden, senseless death of your beloved wife as a suspect in her murder. And then being arrested, tried, and convicted, watching from behind bars as your son is raised by the in-laws who now believe you killed their daughter. Eric’s biannual visits were the only light in Michael’s life, and they stopped nearly halfway through his sentence.
Based on more than 800 pages of personal journals he wrote in prison, Getting Life reveals Michael’s unfathomable tale of injustice before he was released on October 4, 2011. This is the full account of what really happened to Chris, including the conviction of her true killer—and a no contest plea by the former prosecutor for criminal contempt of court—and how Michael was able to walk away and start life again…finally, as a free man.
"In 1986, 32-year-old Michael Morton's life changed forever the day his wife, Christine, was bludgeoned to death in their bed while their three-year-old son looked on. In this eloquent, page-turning memoir, Morton recalls his wrongful conviction of that murder and the 25 years he spent in the hellish Texas penal system before DNA tests proved his innocence. He describes his trial, in which, he explains, the prosecutor in the rural county outside of Austin blatantly withheld exculpatory evidence. Despite being railroaded and sentenced to life in prison, Morton's attitude remains more positive than you'd expect: he's determined to bring his wife's real killer to justice, even as he's exposed to some of the harshest prisons in Texas. With the help of the New York based Innocence Project, a legal effort founded to overturn wrongful convictions through DNA testing, Morton pushed through years of blocked appeals until the courts finally approved testing a bloody bandana found near the murder scene (it revealed the DNA of another man, who would be found guilty of the murder in 2013). (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Imagine spending twenty-five years in prison for a murder you did not commit. Imagine the murder victim was your wife, the love of your life. And imagine it all happened because prosecutors and law enforcement officials cooked up a case against you and hid evidence that would have identified the real killer. Michael Morton doesn't have to imagine, because he lived it. It's usually a cliché to say someone has been to hell and back, but in Morton's case that is exactly what happened, and his stunning and lyrical account of the journey will break your heart, then make you mad, and finally fill you with hope.”
“An intimate, gripping portrayal of a grievous miscarriage of justice.”
“A true Texas story of how our system of justice can itself be criminal. Michael Morton’s powerful tale will take you with him into mourning, into prison, and finally, thankfully, back out into the light.”
"[An] eloquent, page-turning memoir."
“In straightforward, thoughtful prose, surprisingly devoid of bitterness, from his personal journals as well as with court transcripts, Morton details his love for his wife and son, his loss of both, and his years spent surviving in prison and trying to prove his innocence. A powerful memoir and a powerful indictment of the U.S. judicial system and its potential to imprison innocent men and women.”
"A stunning memoir...A great deal has been written about the shortcomings of the American criminal justice system, but perhaps nothing more searing than Morton’s book, 'Getting Life.' It is a devastating and infuriating book, more astonishing than any legal thriller by John Grisham...Morton is able to deliver this aching and poignant look at the criminal justice system only because he didn’t get a death sentence. "
"Even for readers who may feel practically jaded about stories of injustice in Texas – even those who followed this case closely in the press – could do themselves a favor by picking Michael Morton's new memoir…It is extremely well-written, insightful, infuriating, and, in places, quite funny."
“A lively and intimate account of his rise from pariah to celebrated survivor after DNA evidence and determined lawyers proved his innocence after 25 years in prison…What makes Morton’s story so intriguing is the ease with which most people can put themselves in his place — the victim of a crime treated like a criminal — and wonder if they could cope, let alone survive.”
“A jarring testament that truth really can be stranger than fiction…the writing is snappy and clean, with more wit than one might expect.”
"A tale of grave injustice and, finally, great strength and courage and intelligence."
“Morton poignantly recounts half a lifetime spent behind bars and underscores the glaring errors of our justice system.”
He spent twenty-five years in prison for a crime he did not commit. He lost his wife, his son, and his freedom. This is the story of how Michael Morton finally got justice—and a second chance at life.
On August 13, 1986, just one day after his thirty-second birthday, Michael Morton went to work at his usual time. By the end of the day, his wife Christine had been savagely bludgeoned to death in the couple’s bed—and the Williamson County Sherriff’s office in Texas wasted no time in pinning her murder on Michael, despite an absolute lack of physical evidence. Michael was swiftly sentenced to life in prison for a crime he had not committed.
He mourned his wife from a prison cell. He lost all contact with their son. Life, as he knew it, was over.
It would take twenty-five years—and thousands of hours of effort on the part of Michael’s lawyers, including the team at the New York-based Innocence Project—before DNA evidence was brought to light that would ultimately set Michael free. The evidence had been collected only days after the murder—but was never investigated.
Drawing on his recollections, court transcripts, and more than one thousand pages of personal journals he wrote in prison, Michael recounts the hidden police reports about an unidentified van parked near his house that were never pursued; the treasure trove of evidence, including a bandana with the killer’s DNA on it, that was never introduced in court; the call from a neighboring county reporting the attempted use of his wife’s credit card (a message that was received, recorded, and never returned by local police); and ultimately, how he battled his way through the darkness to become a free man once again.
Getting Life is an extraordinary story of unfathomable tragedy, grave injustice, and the strength and courage it takes to find forgiveness.
About the Author
Michael Morton was born in Texas, grew up in California, and moved back to Texas in high school. While living in Austin, Michael was convicted of murdering his wife—a crime he did not commit. He spent almost twenty-five years in prison before being exonerated through the efforts of the Innocence Project, pro bono lawyer John Raley, and advances in DNA technology. Michael is now remarried and lives on a lake in rural East Texas, relishing and appreciating what others may take for granted.