Here is a former county prosecutor, later appointed criminal court judge, who knowingly sent an innocent man to prison, where he served 25 years before being proven innocent. This poor excuse for a man intentionally withheld crucial evidence of innocence, even after being ordered to turn over all such “exculpatory” evidence to the defense. All he gets is loss of his license (and his judicial position) and ten days in jail. Too bad it couldn’t be a few months – at least – in the same maximum security prisons where Mr. Mortan was forced to try to survive for 25 years. And thank heavens for the Innocence Project and people like its founder, Barry Scheck, with great help from a number of National Association of Criminal Defense lawyers.
GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) – On February 6th, 1987, Judge William Lott asked then prosecutor Ken Anderson if he had any evidence which would have been favorable to defendant Michael Morton, who was on trial for the murder of his wife, Christine.
The answer was “No, sir.”
Nearly 27 years later, Anderson will serve jail time for that answer.
A plea deal was announced Friday that includes a 10-day sentence, a $500 fine, and 500 hours of community service to be completed within five years.
Anderson will also resign from the state bar, effectively ending his career in law. He resigned from his position as a judge earlier this year.
All for criminal contempt of court dating back to Michael Morton’s 1987 trial where withheld evidence may have kept the innocent man out of jail.
“It is a good day,” said Morton who served 25 years in prison before DNA testing exonerated him and would later lead to the murder conviction of Mark Norwood.
Some will argue whether the 10-day sentence is appropriate given the severe damage done.
But Morton was satisfied.
“The only thing I wanted is for Ken Anderson to be off the bench and for him to no longer practice law,” said Morton. “Both of those things have happened and more.”
After the hearing, the Innocence Project announced an independent review was approved by Williamson County District Attorney Jana Duty. The review will examine each case where someone is still serving jail time due to a conviction that occurred during Anderson’s 16-year reign as DA.
An audit will also occur for all cases where Former DA John Bradley opposed DNA testing.
Anderson’s punishment is history making according to the Innocence Project and the independent audit is yet another milestone for the case which has reshaped justice in Williamson County and far beyond.
“(Morton) has changed criminal justice in Texas and he along with other exonerees will change it across the county,” said Innocence Project attorney Barry Scheck.
Scheck acknowledged Anderson may ultimately serve just four days in jail due to good behavior and time served, but Gerald Goldstein, another Innocence Project attorney, said a message has been sent.
“This is the first time in the country’s history that a prosecutor has been found guilty of criminal contempt, will go to jail, and be stripped of their law license,” said Goldstein who believes those repercussions will serve as a warning to prosecutors about accountability.
Anderson has until December 2nd to report to the Williamson County Jail to begin his sentence.
Morton has been at almost every court proceeding that has resulted from his exoneration.
“My number one motivating factor for being here is so that what happened to me won’t happen to you,” he said Friday.
It is an impact that has left an indelible imprint in courtrooms across the state, including with Judge Kelly Moore who presided over Friday’s hearing and had one last thing to say to Morton before adjourning the case.
“The world is a better place because of you. At the end of the day a lot of people can’t say that.”