My New Year’s wish for 2017? Bring Michael Morgan home
(L: the younger Morgan R: Morgan Today)
By Tom Rask
Pinellas County commissioner. During the meeting, he had to step out of his office for a minute. Somewhat bored, I looked at the items on his desk and saw a letter with blue text stamped on the envelope. The-blue text said that the letter came from a Florida State Prison.
When the commissioner returned, I said “I’ve never read a letter from an inmate; do you mind if I read it?”. He said “go right ahead.” It was polite letter, thanking the commissioner for visiting the inmate, who was incarcerated a 5 hour drive away. “Norm”, I asked, “what is this all about?” He gave me the rundown.
Thus began my unplanned involvement in the case of Michael L. Morgan, Florida Department of Corrections inmate #122502. If you want to know the facts of the case, just Google “michael morgan mike deeson” and several news videos will come up. The short version of the case is that a St. Petersburg woman was shot in the buttock in 1993. The event took place inside of a private home. That much we know as fact.
Felicia Fuller, the woman who was shot, had already been to prison three times, including for cocaine charges. Her shooting had all the signs of a drug deal gone bad, and it’s my belief that Fuller needed to make it look like it wasn’t a drug deal gone bad in order to avoid a lengthy prison term. I believe that is why she claimed that Morgan was the gunman. She also claimed that he committed sexual battery on her, a crime not usually committed during drug deals.
Twelve days after the crime, Fuller saw Morgan on the street and identified him as the shooter. Morgan had no drug arrest record, and did not match the physical description she had given police.
Morgan was convicted solely based on Fuller’s testimony, and only after three trials. Morgan received life in prison without the possibility of parole, or “LWOP” as it is known. One juror now regrets his decision to convict because he believes important information was withheld from the jury. That juror is involved in the effort to have Morgan released.
To be clear: Michael Morgan has committed crimes, including one robbery, and he freely admits it. He just didn’t commit this crime and has never shot anybody.
Had Morgan plea bargained, he would have received 15 years. Instead, he refused to say he was guilty of crimes he did not commit and now serves life.
Already 700 years ago, William of Ockham proposed that “among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.” That principle is today known as Occam’s Razor. When we apply it to Morgan’s case, we see that neither Fuller’s story nor his conviction makes sense in light of the facts.
Since the shooting, Fuller has served two terms totaling 9.5 years in Florida prisons. She has been convicted of a variety of crimes, including cocaine dealing, retaliation against a witness in another case and much more. Her record of convictions has 50 entries.
But let’s say that all of us who are involved in this case are wrong about his innocence. Let’s say that Morgan actually did what he was convicted of. If so, his sentence is not only excessive; it is grossly excessive. Michael Morgan has now been incarcerated since June 22, 1993, at which time he was 19- years-old.
The late Elijah Gosher wrote a column about Morgan’s case in the St. Pete Times already 16 years ago. Mike Deeson at WTSP 10 Investigates has produced multiple television stories over the years, and Bubba the LoveSponge and other radio hosts have also talked about this case. Yet Morgan remains incarcerated.
To be brutally honest, there are times when I wish I had never read that inmate letter from Morgan because the lack of action in this case is very frustrating.
However, there is one person who is perfectly situated to take action and address this injustice. That person is Florida Governor Rick Scott.
Every governor knows that there is political and actual risk involved in releasing inmates before their sentence is up. Since Scott is not running for re-election, the political risk is minimal. Morgan’s exemplary record as a model prisoner tells us that any risk of reoffending is very low. The Governor can issue what is called a “pardon without firearm authority”, which means all rights except the right to own a firearm. Morgan would gladly and gratefully accept such a pardon.
Morgan’s case is being re-viewed by the Governor’s Office of Executive Clemency.
Please take a moment to call them at 800-435-8286 to say that you support a pardon of Michael Morgan (inmate #122502) before Governor Scott leaves office.
Make sure that the person answering knows that it is a case their office is reviewing, and thank them for their consideration. If you prefer, you can e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org
If Governor Scott does not pardon Morgan, the next governor might decide that it’s too early in their term to release Michael. Should that happen, many more years could pass before this injustice is corrected. Therefore, time is of the essence. Please take action right now and let’s send Michael Morgan home in 2017.