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 discussion this weekend on the blog. He has now pleaded guilty and will received just 10 days in jail as part of his settlement.
Ken Anderson was a judge in Williamson County, Texas and constitutes a relatively rare case where a former prosecutor is actually called to account for such misconduct. Morton was wrongly convicted in 1987 for the murder of his wife. Morton was found beaten to death in her bed in 1986. Police and prosecutors immediately focused on the husband and noted that he had left a note , Sheriff Boutwell was among the first at the scene. Mr. Morton has said that expressing disappointment that she had fallen asleep during a romantic interlude the night before. They did not seem to wonder why a killer would leave such a note if he had the wherewithal to commit the other acts of deception in the case.
While Morton sat in jail for 25 years, Anderson enjoyed a successful career and became a judge. He was appointed to the bench by Gov. Rick Perry in 2001. In his 1997 book, “Crime in Texas: Your Complete Guide To the Criminal Justice System,” Anderson wrote “In reality, I don’t see much brilliance in the courtroom. Trials are won and the truth is exposed because of detailed, painstaking preparation done before the first witness is sworn in.”
While Anderson has “apologized,” he denies any wrongdoing. He insists that he did not know about the statement of the boy, which is curious since the boy was the eyewitness to the murder and said emphatically that it was not his father. It appears that the “painstaking preparation” did not include reading the account of the eyewitness in the case.
The ten days for Anderson is for contempt for telling a judge during a 1987 hearing that he did not have exculpatory evidence to provide to defense counsel. He must also perform 500 hours of community service and pay a $500 fine, and will be disbarred. However, he was also accused of felony evidence-tampering, which was dropped.
He could have received 10 years on the tampering charge.
However, as light as this punishment is, it still involved his disbarment and removal from the bench. That is far more than the vast majority of cases of prosecutorial misconduct. Many judges are former prosecutors and often avoid addressing such misconduct.