According to court documents Alvin Morton and two accomplices would force their way into a home where they would murder 75 year-old Madeleine Weisser and her 55 year-old son, John Bowers before robbing the home
Alvin Morton would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
Alvin Morton Photos
Alvin Morton Now
DC Number: 309066
Name: MORTON, ALVIN
Birth Date: 07/11/1972
Initial Receipt Date: 03/21/1994
Current Facility: UNION C.I.
Current Custody: MAXIMUM
Current Release Date: DEATH SENTENCE
Alvin Morton Case
On Super Bowl Sunday in 1992, while millions of American enjoyed watching the football game between the Washington Redskins and the Buffalo Bills, Morton and two of his friends, Bobby Garner and Tim Kane, perpetrated a horrific crime for their own violent entertainment. The three friends approached the home of 75 year-old Madeleine Weisser and her 55 year-old son, John Bowers. Although both Weisser and Bowers were strangers to them, Morton and his friends broke into their home and murdered the mother and son for no apparent reason.
During a tape-recorded confession to the police that was played for the jury, Morton described the cold-blooded and senseless murders in graphic detail. Morton stated that he and his accomplices approached the house with an eight and three-quarter inch “survival knife” and a shotgun. Morton stated that “nothing” in particular made them decide to go to the home of Weisser and Bowers, but when they arrived there, Kane cut the telephone line. After Morton kicked in the front door, they entered the home. When Bowers confronted Morton and his accomplices in the home, Morton “told him to get on the ground and he did.” When Weisser entered the room, Garner ordered her to the floor too. Bowers attempted to arise, but Morton told him to stay down. When Bowers refused, Morton shot him “right in the neck.” After her son had been shot at point-blank range, Weisser too attempted to lift herself off the ground, but Garner kicked her in the ribs. Garner “stomped on [Weisser’s] head,” and Morton “stuck the knife to her neck and told her [to] stay down.” When Weisser refused, Morton “tried to push [the knife] in,” but the knife “hit the bone and stopped.” Morton stated that Garner “pushed [the knife] down real hard with ․ he’s fat ․ with all his weight, and it just went right through.” Garner cut off Bowers’s pinkie finger. Morton and the two other murderers fled the scene and showed Bowers’s severed finger to one of their friends as proof that they had committed murder.
Other evidence presented at trial corroborated Alvin Morton’s confession and provided additional details concerning the murders. Morton planned the home invasion and murders days before he carried out the crimes, and two days before the murders, he told a friend that he would bring back a human body part as proof that he had committed murder. Morton told others that Bowers had asked him, “[W]hy are you doing this, what did we do to deserve this[?]” The victims told Morton he could take anything he wanted, if he would spare them, and that they would not report him to law enforcement. Morton responded, “[t]hat’s what they all say,” and then shot Bowers. Weisser was stabbed eight times, and she had defensive wounds that established that she had faced her attackers and would have been aware of the brutality inflicted upon her. Morton and his accomplices severed Weisser’s spinal cord.
Gary Urso and John Swisher represented Alvin Morton at both the guilt and penalty phases of the trial. Urso had prosecuted capital murder cases, but he had never represented a capital defendant. Swisher had defended capital cases. Swisher was in charge of the guilt phase, and Urso was in charge of the penalty phase. On February 4, 1992, a jury convicted Morton of the first degree murders of Weisser and Bowers.
Urso and Swisher decided to pursue an “unbonded child” theory of mitigation during the penalty phase. In other words, Urso and Swisher decided to argue that Morton had not been nurtured as an infant and had been raised in a dysfunctional family to explain why he had committed murder at the age of 19. In preparation for the penalty phase, Urso talked to Morton and Morton’s mother. Morton’s mother mailed Urso a letter in which she explained that Morton was deprived of oxygen at birth because the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. She stated that, when Morton was born, he was black and blue. Morton’s mother also wrote in the letter that the doctors present at Morton’s birth determined that he was not retarded. Urso also talked to Morton’s sister, Angela, and he hired Mimi Pisters, a social worker, who interviewed witnesses about Morton’s childhood. Alvin Morton’s mother, Angela, and Pisters all testified at the original penalty phase along with other lay witnesses for the defense.
Urso filed a motion to obtain a confidential mental health expert. Urso retained Dr. Donald DelBeato, a psychologist, with whom Urso had worked with for several years. Urso believed that Dr. DelBeato was “extremely competent.” Urso testified that he thought Dr. DelBeato was the “most respected psychologist ․ who testifies in our courts in New Port Richey, maybe Dade City.” Dr. DelBeato interviewed Morton, performed a battery of psychological exams, and prepared a report that he delivered to Urso.
Based on his interview with Morton, Dr. DelBeato concluded that Alvin Morton was raised in a dysfunctional household as a child. Morton told Dr. DelBeato that “his natural mother and father were divorced when [Morton] and his sister were very young,” “his father was an alcoholic,” and “he did not have much contact with his biological father.” Although Morton’s mother remarried, Morton “did not appear to develop any strong bonding relationship with” her new husband. Dr. DelBeato determined that Morton had “no significant or strong male models” and “[t]here was no significant male guidance.” Morton “did not feel closeness within the family,” but he loved his sister and mother. Dr. DelBeato concluded that Morton was “a person who is rather shy, isolative and withdrawn and a loner. A very lonely, aimless and drifting person.”
Dr. DelBeato diagnosed Alvin Morton with “a mixed personality disorder.” According to Dr. DelBeato, “[l]iterature suggest[ed] that [Morton’s] profile shows a person who does not form close relationships either with female or males,” which “fit[ ] with [Morton’s] expressed background.” Dr. DelBeato concluded that Morton had “emotional instability and personality deficits that appeared to have developed in line with a rather dysfunctional family history where he was rather alone, relatively unsupervised and with no significant male bonding or male model.” Dr. DelBeato concluded that “[w]ithout this supervision and guidance [Morton’s] ability to develop into a more fully functioning individual was extremely limited.”
Dr. DelBeato testified at the first penalty phase and provided a scientific explanation of the bonding process. Dr. DelBeato testified that “[t]he bonding process is ․ a process whereby a person begins to develop from superficial or reflexive, even, conditioning to a deep form of conditioning feeling in a sense between mother and child.” He stated that “the process of bonding, affection and nurturance is extremely important from age one or age three to age nine or ten, as an extremely significant period.” Dr. DelBeato testified that, “[i]f [a] person does not receive appropriate nurturing, touch, feel, talk, calm, they could develop a lack of or limitation in the ability to form empathy bonding.” Dr. DelBeato explained that “abused children tend to become abusers.” Dr. DelBeato stated that a child who is not bonded “[u]sually [becomes] an unattached, isolated, cold, withdrawn person who doesn’t love, who doesn’t have acquaintances, a distant—usually in this society we call it a personality disorder or a character disorder.” He testified that Alvin Morton likely had trouble bonding because he did not have any strong male role models in his life when he was a child. He stated that Alvin Morton was raised in a dysfunctional family. Although Dr. DelBeato testified that Morton denied being physically abused, he explained that “[p]eople deny abuse out of shame.”
Dr. DelBeato also delivered testimony that might have undermined Alvin Morton’s plea for mercy. Dr. DelBeato stated on direct examination that “especially between the ages of three and nine, every, for example, every male serial killer that has been found, tried and convicted, the majority of them, I think it’s every, but it may be a percentage, has had no significant male figure in their lives between age three and nine.” On cross-examination, Dr. DelBeato stated that, in his opinion, Alvin Morton was a sociopath. He described a sociopath as “a person who does show anti-social tendencies, personality dysfunction and character disorders where they tend to have a deficit in conscience and a deficit in feeling.” Dr. DelBeato testified that “[g]iven the state of the art and what we know, I would have a difficult time saying we could cure [Morton’s] disorder.”
The jury recommended a sentence of death on both counts by a vote of 11 to 1, and the trial court sentenced Alvin Morton death. On direct appeal, the Supreme Court of Florida affirmed the convictions, but vacated the sentences due to prosecutorial misconduct and remanded for a new penalty proceeding. Morton v. State (Morton I), 689 So.2d 259, 265 (Fla.1997).