MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A Germantown father convicted in the murder of his 17-month-old son is asking a judge to throw out that conviction. Curtis Morris says his Memphis attorneys made serious errors in his defense at trial.
In 2015, a jury found Morris guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and neglect in the death of his son, Isaiah. Prosecutors said he killed his son on purpose. Morris maintains it was all a tragic accident, that he tripped on a baby gate and landed on the child.
In a new court filing mailed in Thursday, Nashville attorney Daniel Horwitz said Morris’ conviction should be set aside because of “grievous errors made by trial counsel.”
It was 2009 when Germantown police were called to a condo complex by Morris himself. The medical examiner concluded Morris’ son died of blunt force trauma to his abdomen and had internal bleeding and organ damage.
Morris went on trial for his son’s murder six years later. He testified he heard a thud and thought his son had climbed over a baby gate and fallen down stairs. Then Morris jumped over the gate and landed on his son lying nearby.
Horwitz claims Morris’ attorneys failed to mount a proper defense by not calling expert witnesses to suggest that Morris’ theory of falling on his son and killing him was plausible. He also alleges they never produced promised evidence, withheld portions of the case file and didn’t conduct an adequate investigation.
Well-known Memphis defense attorneys Art Horne and Murray Wells defended Curtis Morris during the trial.
“Anybody that knows me and Mr. Wells knows we fight for our clients and are great trial lawyers,” said Horne.
Both attorneys told WMC Action News 5 Thursday afternoon the claims contained in the new filing are without merit.
“A parent accused of killing his own child, we gave him a vigorous defense,” said Wells. “I’m sorry he feels that way, but every defendant who ends up with a long sentence generally makes their last appeal about the attorneys.”
Wells says both he and Horne spent a significant amount of time on the case. Horne adds some witnesses weren’t put on the stand intentionally.
“You have to look at the nature of character evidence,” said Horne. “And I think when you start talking about character witnesses, it goes down a slippery slope. And there were things we did not want to come out, so we did not call.”
Morris’ new attorney is asking for a new trial.
“Mr. Morris has always maintained his innocence of this crime, and he was wrongfully convicted due to a series of clear and utterly inexplicable errors,” Horwitz said Thursday. “He looks forward to having his wrongful conviction reviewed in due course and to receiving a new trial in this matter.”
A hearing is expected on that petition in a few months in the court where the case was tried.
An appellate court upheld Morris’ conviction. The Tennessee Supreme Court declined to hear the case. He’s currently serving a life sentence.