You've probably never heard of Edward Patrick Morgan, a onetime La Palma and Anaheim resident who charmed his way into the lives of awestruck young Orange County women with smooth talk, model good looks, perfect hair and a fat-free ripped 5-foot-8, 200-pound physique.
But Morgan is a monster, arguably one of the most dangerous sexual predators in modern OC history. He didn't just rape women. He savagely beat and tortured them too. Don't worry. Barring something unfortunate, the serial rapist will never walk free among us again. He now lives where he belongs: in a cage deep inside San Quentin State Prison.
Yet, incredibly, Morgan's fate remains in legal limbo 14 years after an OC judge and jury sentenced him to death after gruesomely raping, mutilating and murdering Leanora Annette Wong, the 23-year-old Huntington Beach resident he'd picked up at a bar at The Block in Orange.
Six weeks ago, California's Supreme Court granted Morgan's request to continue to defer a final decision on his suitability for state execution. The reasoning? He's entitled to taxpayer-funded legal counsel, but no qualified defense lawyer has come forward to represent him.
The California Attorney General's office opposed the move, saying that Morgan was purposely dragging out the legal process without merit.
But the Supreme Court justice say there is “a critical shortage of qualified attorneys willing to represent capital prisoners in state habeas corpus proceedings.”
Really? The fees to handle Morgan's case could top $500,000. There are 200,000 lawyers in this state and none of them can step forward for this work?
It's not just Morgan. Another 300 indigent death row inmates in California lack legal counsel, according to court records. The high court's justices say that few lawyers in the state are qualified.
From the outset, the Morgan case has made tragic turns.
First, there is this fact: In the 1980s, Morgan beat and raped two 16-year-old women and walked out of prison after just 21 months. Free, he then assaulted two more women, one 16 and the other 24. In one of the cases, he handcuffed one of his victims to a tree before raping her. He claimed both the women had pursued him as willing sexual partners. He went back to prison.
In 1994, Wong–Morgan's 23-year-old victim at The Block–had no idea when she agreed to leave a bar with Morgan that he was a violent serial rapist, who'd just days before had been released from prison. He took this beautiful young woman, who'd just started working at a shoe store at the mall, and performed so many horrific acts on her body (like sodomizing her with a sharp metal object) that she was a bloody, unrecognizable pulp when he finally walked calmly away, unaware that a parking lot surveillance camera had recorded his insanity.
You would vomit if you saw the crime scene photographs. No exaggeration: Jack the Ripper had nothing on Morgan.
From his cage on death row, Morgan now claims that he was denied a fair trial because of ineffective legal counsel who did not, in his view, adequately give jurors an excuse for the brutal Wong killing: the voluntary intoxication defense. According to Morgan, he is innocent but if he wasn't he was incapable of forming the necessary intent to commit his crimes because he was high on alcohol, cocaine and steroids when he met Wong.
–R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly
R. Scott Moxley’s award-winning investigative journalism has touched nerves for two decades. An angry congressman threatened to break Moxley’s knee caps. A dirty sheriff promised his critical reporting was irrelevant and then landed in prison. The U.S. House of Representatives debated his work. Federal prosecutors credited his stories for the arrest of a doctor who sold fake medicine to dying patients. Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.