Texas Judge Faces Bar Hearing Over Alleged Abuses As District Attorney

One of the most common complaints by civil libertarians is that prosecutors who abuse the system or rights of defendants are rarely held accountable when convictions are later thrown out. Some like Nancy Grace actually make television careers based on their checkered record as prosecutors. One exception is the Texas proceedings against Texas judge and former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson, who is accused of withholding evidence and making false statements during the 1987 trial of Michael Morton for the murder of his wife. Despite the allegations of his abuses as a prosecutor, Anderson was elevated to the bench to mete out justice as a judge.


Morton served 24 years while Anderson’s career flourished. DNA evidence eventually showed that he was innocent.

Among the evidence concealed by prosecutors was a statement by the Mortons’ three year old son stating that his father was not the attacker.

Anderson is quoted in one news account as saying “It is inconceivable that this happened. I really do want to apologize to him and to everyone else that this affected.” Well, it is really not that inconceivable when the prosecutors concealed statements from witnesses exonerating the defendant. It is also far from inconceivable in Texas which has the highest rate of convicted persons exonerated by DNA evidence. It shows a comprehensive failure of prosecutors to scrutinize evidence and seek for justice to be done as opposed to blindly securing any and all possible convictions.

Mark Alan Norwood was arrested and charged with Christine Morton’s murder on the basis of the DNA evidence. Notably, Norwood is also suspected of killing Debra Master Baker in 1988 — two years after Christine Morton’s death. So the prosecutorial misconduct in the case may not only have stolen the life of an innocent man (and denied a child of his father after the death of his mother) but resulted in the murder of a second woman.

Anderson is specifically accused of concealing five pieces of critical evidence:

It alleges Anderson withheld five pieces of evidence:

1) A memo to the lead investigator in the case detailing a tip about a check made out to Mrs. Morton that was cashed nine days after her death,

2) evidence that a credit card was later recovered from a San Antonio store,

3) reports of witnesses that saw a man park a green van on the street behind the Morton home on several occasions before the murder,

4) A transcript of a taped interview disclosing that Morton’s 3-year old son described a different man and expressly confirmed it was not his father, and

5) A report containing a condensed version of the transcript of the witness account exonerating the defendant.

That makes it all a bit more “conceivable” doesn’t it?

Source: Examiner

27 thoughts on “Texas Judge Faces Bar Hearing Over Alleged Abuses As District Attorney

  1. Inconceivable!? ” I lied and an innocent man went to jail and the real murderer killed another innocent victim.” Prosecutors don’t see hiding evidence the same way the rest of us do– we think it wrong and they think it’s strategy. Their outrageous actions rarely if ever result in any substantial punishment. As a result, their broken internal moral and ethical compasses are never reset by a societal course correction; in fact, their careers blossom on the basis of a grim won and lost score that has nothing to do with justice. These actions are criminal and violate ethical obligations that are crucial to our justice system. It is well past time for something to be done about it.

  2. I will leave this one to the legal folks here to sort it out as they usually do. Sweep as quickly as possible under the carpet, while saying “commiserations and condemnations”!
    Hope that I am wrong.

    This boil should have burst of own accord, years ago.
    Surely, it was not the only mistake the DA made?

    And what does it say of those around him and of course—the system???

    Anybody I forgot?

  3. Texas prosecutors do not mind convicting innocent defendants. Of course this does not apply to all of them, but the number is so significant that it’s time for the whole system to come down. What prevents this? Two things: (1) The Eleventh Amendment to the US Constitution which makes prosecutors immune to any kind of discipline and thus gives them carte blanche not only to deprive anyone of their rights, but also to GIVE anyone the right to murder and/or commit any other crimes they might enjoy; and (2) the idiot myth of “law and order” that not only shields the conduct of self-appointed LOGODS but forces ordinary people to worship them for fear of being deprived of life, liberty and property without due process.

    And you cannot hurt the king.

  4. Apalling. but when coupled with a man spending 24 years it is outrageous.

    Other than example 3) above, there is certainly reasonable doubt on the others which should have been an obvious clue they had the wrong person. When added together, it is solidly so.

    Clearly as our professor mentions this gives me the impression the prosecutor was more interested in conviction than anything else. Someone had to pay, and the defendant was the easiest person available to make this happen.

  5. Justice Holmes,

    in fact, their careers blossom on the basis of a grim won and lost score that has nothing to do with justice.

    As long as the American people judge results by results and not facts or transparency, there will never be justice.
    I WON, seems to be all that is necessary to claim Victory and the Kudos and Laurels that come with it.
    The national sport of football reluctantly approved instant replay, errors have been detected and corrected in real time, (perhaps adding credibility to the game).
    I am not a lawyer, I know many here are. Disguising repressing and twisting facts to win does occur on the playing fields of sport, these techniques do at times determine the outcome of sport competitions.
    Disguising repressing and twisting facts in the courtroom to win, penalizes and cheats REAL people, and robs them of Real justice. …. Really.

    Off Topic, (sort of) Tonight is the 3rd debate, tonight I will observe:
    Disguising repressing and twisting of facts by both candidates.
    The great American sport of rooting for ones candidate of choice will be in full blossom. “I don’t care if my candidates words are true, or if my candidate is cheating. I just want my candidate “to win” Eff the Facts, Eff the Truth.
    It is the American way. Sadly I see much truth in my comparison. :(

  6. While talking to a judge I offered a hypothetical situation ( that really occurred) of an attorney requesting that a case be dismissed due to the law that would enforce it was changed the prior year. ( not true ) The Judge said, “Sounds like he is doing a good job for his client”. Too many judges feel it is the other sides job to enforce the law. There are no ethics.

  7. The tenor of the office is set by the DA. If they’re corrupt I’m quite certain there are other cases corrupted from their office. if you elect a good DA, there’s a good chance this will not occur. I worked in a prosecutors office where the Chief was appointed. This simply didn’t occur. If any of those 5 pieces of exculpatory evidence were concealed the prosecutor would have been terminated immediately..no exceptions. There are honorable prosecutors. Our legal system, both civil and criminal has devolved considerably since I began working in it in 1978. No matter how many well constructed rules are established. No matter how many fail safe measures are taken. If people working in a system are immoral..if they have no honor, a travesty like this will always occur. The best coaches I ever had employed very few rules. And those were the most disciplined teams. They demanded honor, respect and honesty which leads to trust; as precious as gold. As a coach in our current culture it was enormously difficult to instill those qualities. The reason being they were completely foreign concepts to many of the kids. Our culture is f@cked if we lose honor, respect, honesty and trust. F@cked!

  8. These people are lazy. Yes they are liars and cheats but at their core is a whole lot of lazy. Finding the guilty party is just too much work.

  9. Blouise, That is indeed a component and that dynamic starts w/ the police investigation. I hired retired homicide detectives for my firm. Their work ethic was just not up to public sector standards. I loved the difficult cases, they loved the easy ones. So, we kind of found our solution.

  10. nick,

    For some strange reason (never really understood the attraction) I have a whole lot of friends in law enforcement and they all say the same thing … if you don’t want to work too hard, law enforcement is a good place to park your butt.

    Then they b*itch about what cry babies fireman are. ;)

    I’ll tell you this much, from a Civil Service Commissioner point of view, running the application and exam time for fireman/paramedics was a lot more visually pleasing than when it was law enforcement time. ;)

    (Many of the law guys read this blog and know who I am so I wrote that just to get their blood pressure moving.)

  11. I have posted info on the Third Party Presidential Debate (Tues.,Oct. 23, 9PM ET) on the “Minnesota Lawyer Convicted…” article. Please take a look.

  12. I am not a criminal lawyer but I’ve read of lots of cases in may different states where defendants who were convicted due to intentional prosecutorial misconduct and sat in jail for years sued the state and won millions. Is this because the state has waived its sovereign immunity from suits for intentionsl misconduct by statute?Is there an exception to sovereign immunity for intentional misconduct??? I would doubt Texas has any such statute. Fortunately I didn’t have to deal with the Texas courts, but saw enough conduct in the private sector which violated disciplinary rules.

    BTW, What is former Atty Gen Gonzo up to nowadays? Anyone know? I am licensed in TX but am too lazy to look him up on the Bar’s website.

  13. Greetings all,
    First I would like someone to explain to me how the 11th ammendment protects prosecutors from paying for their crimes and/or falsly convicting someone; hiding evidence etc.

    AMENDMENT XI

    Passed by Congress March 4, 1794. Ratified February 7, 1795.

    Note: Article III, section 2, of the Constitution was modified by
    amendment 11.

    The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to
    any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United
    States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign
    State.

    Second; I am much less forgiving of this type of crime than most others.

    When a persons life or any portion of that life is denyed them because of prosecutorial actions such as these; it is NOT enough to disbar them. This prosecutor must be required to serve the next 24 years in prison just as the falsly accused man was. If the man did life so should the prosecutor.

    This is just one of the many blatant miscarriages of justice perpetrated by a multitude of prosecutors and other members of our “Justice” system. Police, attorneies both prosecutors and defence, judges, expert witnesses and on and on.

    It is not enough to toughen up on these people. Our entire legal system needs revamping from the ground up.

    Just for starters; If you are accused of a crime and found not guilty or aquitted; the jurisdiction should be responsible for your legal fees. If you hire an attorney to defend you and you are found guilty; no charge; no fee for the attorney. He has failed to do his job. Why should I pay him. If I sue and do not win; I don’t pay the attorney. If I hire a plumber to fix my drain; and he fails to do so; I don’t pay. If I hire a painter and he paints my house the wrong color; I don’t pay. Why should I pay an attorney for failing to do what I hired them to do?
    If you are guilty of the charges and you tell the attorney this; you should reach an agreement as to the sentence he will get you. If you get more; you don’t pay.
    Force these folks to do their job by making their pocketbook suffer for failure as we do with any contractor or service provider.
    Of course honest attorneies will not object to this plan. Only dishonest, lazy, and incompetent attorneies will find this rule burdensome.
    I could go on; and on; and on but as I have just returned to the net; I will cool my jets and save it for another veneue or at least anther time.
    I hope you and all the other regulars here are doing well. Great to see your still scratching Woosty.

  14. I wrote about this at http://www.AccidentalFelon.net because it is one of the most appalling cases, and I have read many of these.

    In the Michael Morton case there are two prosecutors who are guilty, two who should be held accountable for withholding evidence. After Texas attorney John Raley agreed to represent Michael Morton pro bono, he had a six year battle with the prosecutor in court–six years to convince the judge–to allow DNA testing.

    Six years more sitting in prison, hoping for the chance to prove his innocence. And the original prosecutor, now judge, had convinced his in-laws that Morton was guilty. The result: He lost his in-laws support; his son grew up believing his father killed his mother.

    If Anderson is not disbarred, if his pension is not revoked, he will continue to wield power and receiver taxpayer dollars despite abusing the public trust.

    It is not unusual in these cases that when prosecutors abuse their power to convict the person they decided, without evidence, is guilty, the actual murderer remains free to kill again. If this is not a crime against the rest of the society as well as the Morton family, what else is needed?

  15. My Maxim of Criminal Jurisprudence I:
    The higher the stakes, the more they cheat.
    This of course relates predominately to police and prosecutors. Imagine a high profile homicide case, maybe even a death penalty case where the evidence may be weak or ambiguous., Is human nature, human competitiveness, consistent with an inclination to cut corners, shape or shade things to accomplish the desired result? It is. The compulsion to win seems to frequently exceed the ability of prosecutors and cops to hue to ethical, moral and legal constraints on their conduct. The result, gross miscarriages of justice. Nearly as bad is the near total failure of any meaningful consequences for either cops, prosecutors or dishonest crime lab personnel when they knowingly contribute to or cause a wrongful conviction. If there is one thing that may contribute to a reduction of the frequency of unjust conviction, it is likely the sole juror of the twelve that just suspects that the cops testimony wasn’t quite right or sounded a little hinky or implausible and then has the courage to steadfastly advocate for acquital for lack of proof beyond a reasonable doubt or at least hold out to hang the jury.

    DNA evidence has exposed to all who care to pay attention that there are an alarming number of cases where the guys that are supposed to have been the good guys, actually weren’t. The “good guys” were cheating to win. It is long past time to start holding these not so good guys accountable. A conviction and sentence selected to have a healthy deterrent effect would seem to be appropriate.

  16. This was yet another tragic story of injustice, incompetence, corruption or pride run a muck in the criminal justice system in the good state of Texas that’s been reported on 60 Minutes. It breaks my heart and belief in democracy in America. Does anything compromise democracy more than
    injustice? Do you have any insight into this, professor? Is this a manifestation of elected vs appointed prosecutors and judges?

  17. It does not matter whether judges are elected or appointed; it happens everywhere in the nation, in federal courts (where judges are appointed) as well as state courts. Search for “Chicago police torture” and you will have nightmares. Check the True Stories button at my website, http://www.AccidentalFelon.net for links to more than 1,000 exonerations and stories of young people whose lives were aborted by police, prosecutors, and judges.

    It seems the basic reason is no accountability. When people know they can get away with these violations and even earn promotions but not lose their jobs, not lose their pensions, not lose their power, those without conscience or morals take advantage of the opportunity.

    Get rid of the immunities our legal system bestow on them, and we will take the first step toward creating a more just system. Otherwise, it can be you next, or me, or someone we care about. No one is immune from Americans who have the power to act like Naziis.

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