I never thought the charges made sense, but the kicker is seen in the following paragraph:
Prosecutors' key witness was William Morgan, an inmate who had told investigators that Higgenbottom had confessed to the murder while in jail. But the evidence filed in court on Feb. 28 showed Morgan had written a letter to Higgenbottom's family in 2007, saying he could "clear [Higgenbottom] of the [murder] charges" if they would pay his bail money to free him from jail.Understand that Morgan was going to give the classic "jailhouse snitch" testimony, and I can guarantee you -- gurantee you -- that Higgenbottom never "confessed" anything to Morgan. What was going on was that Morgan was playing the "jumping on the bus" game in which he was offered something if he gave the testimony that prosecutor Alan Norton wanted to hear.
Now, Norton was slick enough to know that the letter utterly discredited his beloved witness and he was not stupid enough to put Morgan on the stand, where he would have been shredded on cross-examination. Wrote Norton:
"If the letters had come to light prior to the indictment in this case, it is unlikely this case would have been presented to the Catoosa County grand jury."And Buzz followed with:
"Clearly, we couldn't rely on his credibility."Uh, no sh*t, Sherlock.
Here is the problem, dear readers. Norton and Franklin knew all along that Morgan was unreliable and that his testimony would be total perjury, but until they saw the letter, they figured that a jury just might believe him. Unfortunately, that was not the only aspect of the prosecution that was questionable, but it clearly was the most illegal.
Morgan was someone whose testimony was for sale, and throughout the country, prosecutors every day use the proverbial "jailhouse snitch" to gain wrongful convictions. While I cannot vouch for the details of what happened in Catoosa County, I can tell readers what often happens.
Police put someone in a cell with a person who just has been arrested (and the police don't have any good evidence but want SOMETHING). The "snitch" has been fed details of the crime (or alleged crime), details that only someone close to the action can know.
In return for either money or a reduced sentence, the "snitch" then testifies that the accused "confessed" the crime to him in great detail. The noted attorney Harvey Silverglate told me that when one of his clients is arrested, he tries to get him out of jail immediately because of the "jailhouse snitch" problem.
I don't know if this happened in the Higgenbottom case, but I can tell you that the whole thing reeks of it. I have my doubts that Morgan is regarded as truthful by anyone, and especially the LMJC officers of the court. However, a guy like Morgan is USEFUL because he can deliver goods for prosecutors who might have no evidence or, worse, actually have someone charged who is innocent.
Norton and Franklin knew exactly what they had in Morgan. I don't know the details of the letter, but I cannot imagine that they were unaware of it before going to the grand jury. Maybe they were and maybe they really believed Higgenbottom murdered a baby, but when they have to rely on forensic evidence that conveniently was changed along with a "jailhouse snitch," one has to wonder if these people have any integrity at all.