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?