Make us your home page

The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Charlie Crist urges Obama to champion cause of freeing local man



In a letter penned to President Barack Obama in his final week in office, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, highlighted the story of a St. Petersburg man he said is wrongly serving prison time.

In his letter, dated Jan. 13, the congressman and former Florida governor said Michael Morgan, 42, is serving three life sentences for attempted murder, armed burglary and sexual battery -- crimes he didn’t commit.

Morgan was convicted of the charges in 1993 after he and another man were accused of breaking into a woman’s home and holding her at gunpoint while each performed a sexual act on her. Morgan was further accused of trying to shoot the victim as she tried to escape.

Crist wrote Obama that Morgan was convicted without any physical evidence, including DNA or fingerprints.

“This case illustrates why the pardon process is so vital to ensuring fairness in our justice system,” Crist wrote.

During his presidency, Obama has commuted the sentences of more than 1,300 offenders, primarily jailed in nonviolent cases. The president’s range is limited strictly to federal cases. If Morgan were to be granted a pardon or clemency, it would take action from Gov. Rick Scott.

“I only wish Michael Morgan’s case fell within federal jurisdiction,” Crist, D-St. Petersburg, said in his letter. "Our Chief Executive in Florida has the power to grant clemency, but to date has not chosen to take action on this case."

It's unclear exactly what Crist is asking Obama to do aside from somehow convincing Scott to take action.

"Your kind attention and willingness to lend your voice to this grave injustice would be incredibly helpful...It is my hope that your efforts lead to freedom for Americans, like Michael Morgan, who sit in prison today for crimes they never did."

Given the fact that Obama and Scott rarely speak and are political opposites, an intervention is unlikely. Given that the one making the request is Crist, who Scott defeated in the 2014 gubernatorial race, the chances are even more remote

Morgan’s mother, Velma Thompson, said Tuesday night she hopes Scott considers pardoning her son.

She has fought since Morgan’s conviction to have him freed. Thompson told the Tampa Bay Times in 2008 her son’s conviction was the result of mistaken identity. Gerald Wright, the co-defendant in the case, had initially said Morgan wasn’t involved, but later recanted his statement.

“I mean what more do we need?” Thompson said Tuesday. “There’s no fingerprints, there’s no DNA evidence, nothing. Absolutely zero.”

Thompson said there’s a continued effort between her and other people who believe Morgan is innocent to see him freed. She appreciates Crist’s effort in placing the story in front of the president.

“I applaud him,” she said. “I applaud his tenacity to move forward and do something for someone that’s wrongfully incarcerated.”

[Last modified: Tuesday, January 17, 2017 7:42pm]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours