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Upshur County inmate files suit, claims violations

By Sarah Thomas sthomas@news-journal.com
Oct. 27, 2013 at 10 p.m.


A Gilmer man serving a life sentence for murder is suing the Upshur County District Attorney's Office, claiming he is being deprived of his liberty based on the office's failure to release evidence used as part of his case, and that his appeal was sabotaged.

But, District Attorney Billy Byrd said last week that Brandon Dean Morgan waived his right to an appeal when he pleaded guilty to murdering James Lance Evans with an axe after breaking into Evans' home.

Morgan was originally charged with capital murder, but pleaded to the lesser charge of murder, said Byrd, who was not the prosecuting district attorney on the case.

Morgan filed the lawsuit in the Eastern District Court in Marshall, according to documents obtained earlier last week.

In the suit, Morgan alleges the District Attorney's office refused to release biological evidence that he wants to have retested.

Morgan also names his defense attorneys - Barry Wallace and David Griffith - as defendants, claiming they provided ineffective counsel because they withheld "statements and testimony vital to liberty interests," according to the lawsuit.

In February, Morgan filed a writ of habeas corpus and later that month the criminal court of appeals in Austin dismissed it because the motion was defective, Byrd said.

"Based on how the court ruled, they found he knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily entered the plea agreement," he said. "Ultimately, the courts found he was properly admonished and he was competent when he entered the plea."

Morgan's statement of claim, according to the lawsuit, says the state failed to release evidence he believes could change the outcome of case, including "pretrial transcripts, police offense reports, affidavits, state's plea offers, witnesses statements, list of evidence and lab reports."

The alleged action, "deprives me of my liberty interests in utilizing the state procedures to obtain reversal of my conviction and/or obtain a pardon or reduction of my sentence," Morgan claims in the lawsuit.

<em>- Follow Sarah Thomas on Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/SarahLNJ" target="_blank">@SarahLNJ</a></em>

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