Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Prosecutorial Misconduct in Michael Morton Case: Judge Ken Anderson Faces Court of Inquiry and Now State Bar of Texas Disciplinary Proceedings, Too

Among the instances of prosecutorial misconduct that we've monitored, the continuing saga of Williamson County Prosecutor Ken Anderson (later Judge Kenneth Anderson) is one of the most shocking So much so that an official Court of Inquiry has been ordered by the Texas Supreme Court upon recommendation of State District Judge Sid Harle.

For details on that recommendation, read our earlier post.  Suffice to say, Judge Harle found probable cause that District Attorney Ken Anderson illegally withheld evidence in the murder trial of Michael Morton.

For all the details, check out the Report to Court filed by Gerry Goldstein of San Antonio, John Wesley Raley of Houston and Barry Scheck of New York City on behalf of the Innocence Project.  It's around 150 pages and provides the details that went into the Texas Supreme Court's decision to move forward with a Court of Inquiry.

What Happened to Michael Morton - The Withheld Evidence

As you'll recall, Mr. Morton was unjustly convicted of killing his wife, Christine, and as an innocent man spent 25 years of his life in a Texas prison.  Most agree that Michael Morton is a free man today because of the continued efforts of the Innocence Project, and now Mr. Morton is dedicating his efforts to help others who have been victims of prosecutorial misconduct.

What happened to Mr. Morton?  You can read the full opinion of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals here, where they overturned his 1987 conviction.  DNA evidence convinced the CCA that another person, not Michael Morton, was responsible for the death of his young wife.

The key to the pending Ken Anderson proceeding is the allegation that Morton would not have been convicted in the first place if the evidence held by the District Attorney's Office had been revealed.  This included (1) the Mortons' young son eyewitness account that the man who killed his mother was not his dad; (2) the bandanna found at the scene with DNA evidence (this proved to be someone else's DNA, not Mr. Morton's DNA; (3) the victim's credit card found at a store in San Antonio; and (4) a forged endorsement on a check payable to the victim that was cashed almost two weeks after Mrs. Morton died.

State Bar of Texas Files Disciplinary Action Against Anderson - Fight For His Bar License

The State Bar of Texas investigated the allegations of prosecutorial misconduct against Ken Anderson and after 10 months, a formal grievance was filed against him.  This is another lawsuit.

You can read the Disciplinary Petition filed against Ken Anderson here.  This was filed in September 2012.  The Texas Supreme Court has appointed State District Judge Kelly G. Moore (of Yoakum and Terry Counties) to preside over the trial, which will be a public proceeding at the Williamson County Courthouse.  

On Monday, Judge Ken Anderson filed affirmative defenses in that case, arguing the statute of limitations has run in this case against him by the Bar.  That's right: he's arguing that the State Bar filed its case too late, under the State Bar of Texas' own Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. 

 Court of Inquiry Into Morton Prosecutor Ken Anderson Begins December 10, 2012 - Fight Over Evidence Tampering Charges / Contempt

Meanwhile, Tarrant County Judge Louis Sturns is presiding over the Court of Inquiry where the issues involve whether or not Ken Anderson should face evidence tampering charges and contempt of court charges for withhold evidence that led to the conviction of an innocent man and his incarceration for over two decades.

Discovery fights are ongoing in that matter, with the expected "shield and sword" arguments being used by Anderson's attorneys to try and get past Michael Morton's lawyers' claims of attorney-client priviledge, among other things.  Rusty Hardin is acting as Special Prosecutor in this case.