District judge Ken Anderson of Williamson County, Texas is now formally under investigation for his alleged role in a gross injustice as a prosecutor. It is an all-too-rare case where a former prosecutor is actually called to account for an injustice. In this case, an innocent man, Michael Morton (shown here), now 58, was wrongly convicted in 1987 for the murder of his wife. Prosecutors failed to turn over key evidence showing that his son clearly stated that it was not his father. Instead, they took a tragic murder of a mother and magnified it by incarcerating the grieving father. Anderson was later selected as “Prosecutor of the Year.” We previously discussed the case.
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Texas Judge Under Investigation For Alleged Prosecutorial Misconduct That Led To Innocent Man Being Sent To Jail 25 Years AgoPublished 1, February 6, 2013 Courts , Criminal law , Lawyering , Society 35 Comments
Former Texas District Attorney Accused Of Prosecutorial Misconduct That Sent Innocent Man To Prison For 25 Years . . . Receives 10 Days In JailPublished 1, November 11, 2013 Bizarre , Criminal law , Lawyering 18 Comments
We previously discussed the case of former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson who committed various prosecutorial abuses to secure the imprisonment of Michael Morton (shown here), now 58, an innocent man who spent 25 years in jail. This includes a disscussion this weekend on the blog. He has now pleaded guilty and will received just 10 days in jail as part of his settlement.
From Mike Nifong’s mishandling of the Duke LaCrosse case (which led to his disbarment) to the Oklahoma Supreme Court refusing to disbar Robert Bradley Miller for withholding evidence in capital cases and issuing false subpoenas to Angela Corey’s questionable prosecution of the Trayvon Martin shooting (which seemingly had little or no consequences to Corey whatsoever), stories of prosecutorial misconduct are nothing new to this forum. As always, such malfeasance can be driven by a number of factors – political considerations, public and media pressure, laziness, incompetence, and blind professional ambition to name a few. Regardless of the reasons underlying these kind of cases, the salient point is that such bad behavior on the part of prosecutors undermines the credibility of and the faith of the public in the criminal justice system.
This brings us to the case currently in the news of former Texas prosecutor Ken Anderson.
The former Williamson County District Attorney and Judge (appointed by Rick Perry) agreed to a plea deal for criminal contempt of court for failing to turn over exculpatory evidence in the 1987 murder trial of Michael Morton, later exonerated when the conviction was overturned in 2011. Anderson will pay a $500 fine, perform 500 hours of community service work, spend 10 days in jail and lose his license to practice law. As part of the plea deal, charges of tampering with evidence – which carried a potential penalty of 10 years in prison – were dropped. Is this sufficient punishment for willfully and wrongly sending a man to prison for 24 years? Does this kind of plea further erode public faith in the accountability of those responsible for running the criminal justice system? While this case is being trumpeted as “precedent shattering”, is it really? What can we do about this kind of systemic error?
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.
Former Texas Prosecutor and Current Judge Faces Court of Inquiry Over Alleged Misconduct Leading To Innocent Man Spending 25 Years In JailPublished 1, February 14, 2012 Bizarre , Courts , Criminal law 39 Comments
The same week that the Durham District Attorney is appearing in a hearing on her possible removal, a Texas judge has found probable cause that former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson withheld exculpatory evidence and may have caused a innocent man to be wrongfully convicted. Anderson, now a district judge himself, will face a likely special court of inquiry over his alleged misconduct.
Judge and Former Prosecutor of the Year Accused Of Withholding Evidence That Sent Innocent Man To Jail For 25 YearsPublished 1, December 21, 2011 Constitutional Law , Courts , Criminal law , Lawyering 47 Comments
Michael Morton, 57, spent nearly 25 years in prison for murdering his wife before he was able to force Texas authorities to finally test DNA evidence that proved his innocence. Now he is demanding that the prosecutor be held accountable for withholding evidence. The problem is that the then-Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson, now a district judge in Georgetown (left).
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