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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. nick,

    It’s called “messin’ with the well built” and not necessarily a smart thing to do. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  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. 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.

  9. 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. ๐Ÿ™

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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?

  13. 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.

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