WTSP 10 Investigates: Crist appeals to Obama to help free St. Pete man

By Mike Deeson

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St. Petersburg, January 14, 2017 | comments

He's been locked up for decades but some people, including his mother, believe Michael Morgan is an innocent man.

Now there's a renewed push to get President Obama to take a closer look at the case and lend support. 10 Investigates has been following the story for years.

“This is huge, this is huge.”

That how Vel Thompson described a letter that Florida congressman and former governor Charlie Crist sent to the president Friday about her son.

“I'm speechless. Do you know how long I have been waiting for this?” Thompson told us.

She has been waiting 23 years, to be exact. In 1993 Morgan began serving three life sentences for a crime many people say he did not commit. And Crist, after seeing our stories and talking with Morgan's mother, felt compelled to write the letter to the president.

The congressman told us, “I can’t believe he has gotten three life sentences on a flimsy case in my estimation, where there is virtually no physical evidence whatsoever.” His letter to Obama is provided below.

In addition, Morgan, who was convicted of attempted rape and shooting a convicted drug dealer, had an alibi: the driver of the getaway car said he wasn’t there and his co-defendant has given several sworn statements saying Morgan wasn’t involved. Morgan was found guilty on the testimony of the drug dealer, who gave police a completely different physical description.

In a prison interview, Morgan told 10 Investigates, “I had nothing but my word and they believed (the drug dealer) and not me.”

But now with the help of Crist and the potential involvement of the president, Thompson has hope, telling us, “I would have never thought in a million years when I started this that it would get this far."

When we called Vel Thompson to tell her about Crist's letter, she started crying, then broke down again when we showed it to her.

Meanwhile, Crist has met face to face with President Obama on the case. The president can't issue a pardon in this instance - that’s up to Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet through the lengthy clemency process, but the president's public support would clearly mean a lot to helping free Michael Morgan.

 

 

 

 

January 13, 2017

The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

I applaud your valiant efforts to reform our nation’s criminal justice system; ending juvenile solitary confinement, banning the box for federal employees, and reducing the use of federal private prisons. In that same vein, your support for people serving unjust or excessive sentences has brought justice and hope to thousands of nonviolent offenders and their families.

I share your belief that a more equitable justice system will reduce recidivism and strengthen communities and families. During my time as Governor of Florida, I worked to streamline the clemency process in our state. The changes we instituted within the Florida Clemency Board established a faster and simpler process for nonviolent felons to have their civil rights restored, making it easier for them to get a job and successfully re-enter society. We also granted 13 commutations and restored the voting rights of over 155,000 people during my time as Governor.

And here in the U.S. House of Representatives, Speaker Paul Ryan has also taken a strong stance on these issues, stating recently that, “there are over two million people in our prisons. Many of them are not hardened criminals. They’re not violent. A lot of them are just people who made a mistake. I think we need to let more people earn a second chance at life.” As you know, showing mercy is non-partisan – and vital to reforming our criminal justice system.

In the spirit of correcting wrongs in our justice system, I also write to bring your attention to the case of one of my constituents, Michael Morgan, who was unjustly incarcerated 23 years ago. Mr. Morgan was sentenced to life in prison in June 1993 for a crime he did not commit. It should be noted that Mr. Morgan was convicted without any physical evidence, DNA, or fingerprints.

A local television station recently produced an in-depth review of the case, which can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQ0z9_zl3bM&sns=em. This case illustrates why the pardon process is so vital to ensuring fairness in our justice system.

I only wish Michael Morgan’s case fell within federal jurisdiction. Our Chief Executive in Florida has the power to grant clemency, but to date has not chosen to take action on this case.

Mr. President, your kind attention and willingness to lend your voice to this grave injustice would be incredibly helpful. Thank you again for all that you have done to improve our criminal justice system and restore the lives of the unjustly accused. It is my hope that your efforts lead to freedom for Americans, like Michael Morgan, who sit in prison today for crimes they clearly did not commit.

Sincerely,
Charlie Crist
Member of Congress

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