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?
27 thoughts on “Texas Judge Faces Bar Hearing Over Alleged Abuses As District Attorney”
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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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
Passed by Congress March 4, 1794. Ratified February 7, 1795.
Note: Article III, section 2, of the Constitution was modified by
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
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.
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