Anderson gets jail for wrongful conviction of Michael Morton


#1

KVUE (Austin):

Anderson gets jail for wrongful conviction of Michael Morton

GEORGETOWN, Texas -- Former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson sat in the defendant's chair Friday, awaiting punishment for his role in prosecuting an innocent man and keeping him behind bars for nearly 25 years.

"Colors seem real bright to me now," Michael Morton told media after taking his first steps as a free man in October 2011.

Sentenced in 1987 to life in prison for his wife Christine's murder, it would take more than two decades before DNA evidence helped overturn his conviction -- evidence which Anderson is accused of knowingly covering up and lying about.

"It's inconceivable that this happened, and I really do want to apologize to him and everybody else who this affected," Anderson told media in November 2011. He has steadfastly claimed his own innocence.

"The system failed," he said. "And it shouldn't fail."

Anderson resigned his office of district judge in September, a job he'd held since leaving his post as Williamson County's top prosecutor in 2002. Faced with a civil lawsuit and criminal charges stemming from the Morton case, he accepted a deal to satisfy both issues Friday.
As part of the deal signed off on by District Judge Kelly Moore, Anderson pleaded no contest to a 1987 criminal contempt of court charge for lying about evidence that could have cleared Morton. He's ordered to serve 10 days in jail, pay a $500 fine and complete 500 hours of community service over the next five year.
Anderson has also volunteered to resign from the state bar and give up his ability to practice law. As a result of the deal, he will not be charged with any criminal offense.

"It's a good day," Morton, who was present in the courtroom, told media after the hearing. "When it began, when I was asked what I wanted, I said, 'The only thing that I want as a baseline is for Ken Anderson to be off the bench and for him to no longer practice law,' and both of those things have happened and more."

Morton is a better man than I am. I'd want Anderson thrown in prison for life and hope he lives to 150.


#2

I'm disgusted and appalled at the deal. :mad: He should have gotten real prison time for what he did.


#3

Ten days? What a pitiful deal, but then it was a fellow lawyer/ prosecutor that made this sweet deal for him. I guess Mr. Morton didn't run in the right circles.


#4

Well, there is a bit of a silver lining.

Perry Signs Michael Morton Act

With exoneree Michael Morton by his side, Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday signed a measure that aims to avoid wrongful convictions by preventing prosecutors from suppressing evidence.
"This is a major victory for integrity and fairness in our judicial system," Perry said of Senate Bill 1611, which was named for Morton, who spent 25 years in prison before being exonerated. It was the governor's first public signing ceremony of the session.

. . .
Since his exoneration, Morton has lobbied lawmakers to pass legislation that would prevent others from suffering the same fate. Under SB 1611, prosecutors will be required to turn over evidence to defendants accused of crimes and to keep a record of the evidence they disclose. The landmark 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brady v. Maryland already requires prosecutors to give defendants information that is “material either to guilt or to punishment.” The Morton Act requires disclosure of evidence regardless of its materiality to guilt or punishment. It is the first significant reform to Texas discovery laws since 1965.


#5

Prosecutorial misconduct is a major "secular" argument against the death penalty.


#6

[quote="didymus, post:1, topic:344730"]
KVUE (Austin):

Morton is a better man than I am. I'd want Anderson thrown in prison for life and hope he lives to 150.

[/quote]

I don't understand. what did he do other than prosecute (his job for which he was paid for) a man who later turned out to be innocent (which happens all the time and never results in the prosecuting attorney going to jail)


#7

[quote="Farsight001, post:6, topic:344730"]
I don't understand. what did he do other than prosecute (his job for which he was paid for) a man who later turned out to be innocent (which happens all the time and never results in the prosecuting attorney going to jail)

[/quote]

The last bit is all too true & rather a sad comment on our system, no?

Anyway, prosecutors are required to turn over to the defense any potentially exculpatory evidence. Anderson not only failed to do so he lied to the trial judge about it.
See this from the Austin American-Statesman.


#8

[quote="Farsight001, post:6, topic:344730"]
I don't understand. what did he do other than prosecute (his job for which he was paid for) a man who later turned out to be innocent (which happens all the time and never results in the prosecuting attorney going to jail)

[/quote]

The charge was contempt of court for not releasing evidence that was asked. A prosecutor is not supposed to be tampering with the evidence to get another check mark in his win column. There is a basic blindness that occurs in the criminal justice system. Once one is believed to be guilty, then all other evidence is view in that light. This is why we have rules of evidence and discovery procedures.


#9

[quote="Farsight001, post:6, topic:344730"]
I don't understand. what did he do other than prosecute (his job for which he was paid for) a man who later turned out to be innocent (which happens all the time and never results in the prosecuting attorney going to jail)

[/quote]

From the article ... "Anderson pleaded no contest to a 1987 criminal contempt of court charge for lying about evidence that could have cleared Morton."

I'm a criminal defense attorney and former Special Assistant United State Attorney. There is nothing worse than a prosecutor who conceals exculpatory evidence. This prosecutor entered a no contest plea to contempt for intentionally withholding critical evidence that would have cleared the defendant. A prosecutor's job is to seek justice, not convict someone of a crime for the sake of conviction itself.


#10

Thank you.
I’m afraid that’s one of the problems with an adversarial system. I’m not sure electing prosecutors is a good idea either but I wouldn’t rush to replace it either.
I think in England lawyers were appointed to prosecute cases (no more) just as here they can be appointed to defend cases.

Anyway, the new law in Texas seems like a good step. I understand Anderson couldn’t be prosecuted for perjury or obstruction because the statute of limitations had run. Maybe the statute from when his crime was discovered, not when it was committed.


#11

Perry Signs Michael Morton Act

"With exoneree Michael Morton by his side, Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday signed a measure that aims to avoid wrongful convictions by preventing prosecutors from suppressing evidence."

Evidence was also suppressed by the prosecution in the Zimmerman trial, so I think this is probably more common than we realize. It would be good if all the other states would do what Governor Perry has done.

Judge denies delay, bars evidence in George Zimmerman trial
State attorney employee fired in Zimmerman case

This post (#11)


#12

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