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Raley to Speak and Screen Documentary April 7 on His Long Fight to Free an Innocent Man

March 28, 2016

Nationally renowned Texas attorney John Raley, who led a seven-year fight to free a man wrongfully convicted of murder, will be a special guest on campus Thursday, April 7. Raley worked with the Innocence Project to free Michael Morton, a man who served 25 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife.

The public is invited to a screening at 6 p.m. of “An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story,” a 2012 documentary about the famous case, which includes Raley’s fight to prove Morton’s innocence. The screening followed by a question and answer session will take place in Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium. Students will receive chapel credit for attending the screening.

Morton was convicted of the 1986 murder of his wife in their Texas home, wrongfully convicted at the hands of a prosecutorial team that made an unfair presumption of guilt after a lack of material evidence. The prosecution withheld evidence and details that would have cast reasonable doubt on his guilt, leading to a wrongful conviction.

The Innocence Project, a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals, learned of Morton’s case and fought to bring DNA evidence to light that could exonerate him. Raley worked in their behalf free of charge, leading the fight to DNA test a bloody handkerchief found near the murder scene. After a seven-year battle, the test confirmed Morton’s innocence and found a new suspect who was ultimately convicted of the crime.

He was given a 2013 Presidential Citation by the Texas State Bar in recognition of his work to exonerate Morton. The resultant landmark Michael Morton Act requires prosecutors to provide defense counsel free access to investigation information.

Hosted by OBU’s Center for Faith and Public Life, Raley’s visit will include a 2 p.m. session focusing on Christian ethics in public policy. That event will take place in the Tulsa Royalties Auditorium in Bailey Business Center.

The visit also comes as OBU launches two new degrees for students interested in careers in criminology, forensics and law enforcement: a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and a Bachelor of Arts in Forensic Psychology. Both degree plans are available beginning this fall.

Criminal justice is a social science that attempts to explain patterns of criminal behavior and deviancy, in addition to analyzing society’s ability to control crime and delinquency. With a bachelor’s degree, students can pursue careers in law enforcement, corrections, the courts system, homeland security as well as related fields in nonprofits or in community agencies. Students who choose to pursue graduate or law schools are well prepared for further education or training to make them competitive for positions in the intelligence community as well as federal law enforcement such as the FBI, US Marshals Service and the Secret Service.

“The need for informed and ethical leadership in the field of criminal justice has never been greater,” said Paul Donnelly, assistant of professor of sociology. “Many of those who have dedicated their lives to the world of justice are retiring. Thus, opportunities are arising for well-prepared Christian men and women to fill these vacancies and shape the course of the future for how we treat those acting in opposition to man’s and God’s laws.”

Forensic psychology involves a blending of the fields of psychology and law. Forensic psychologists assess and evaluate the mental state of criminals and victims and often serve as expert witnesses in criminal trials. Because forensic psychology licensure requires a graduate degree, the bachelor’s degree functions to provide a strong foundation for specialized graduate work. With a graduate degree in forensic psychology, students may work with criminal and juvenile offenders, trial lawyers, crime victims and law enforcement agencies. A forensic psychologist may also function as a jury consultant, expert witness, victim advocate, counselor or criminal researcher.

Raley has a national reputation for excellence in the legal community. He also has strong OBU connections, being the grandson of former OBU President and Chancellor Dr. John Wesley Raley. He earned a B.A. in Letters (History, Literature and Philosophy) summa cum laude from the University of Oklahoma, where he played offensive guard on the OU football team and was a Rhodes Scholar finalist. While earning his J.D. at Oklahoma University Law Center, he served as the note editor of the “Oklahoma Law Review.” He was also awarded a Rotary Fellowship, and obtained an LL.M. in International Law from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

In 2013, the Houston Chronicle named Raley “Houstonian of the Year.” In 2014, the Brazos County Bar gave him their annual “Atticus Finch Award.” He received the 2015 Houston Bar Association President’s Award for Pro Bono Service. He volunteers generously with local community theatres and Chapelwood United Methodist Church. Prior to founding Raley & Bowick, he was a litigation partner at Fulbright & Jaworski, L.L.P., and the managing partner of the Houston office of Cooper & Scully, P.C.