Former Texas District Attorney Ken Anderson Gets 10 Jail Sentence For Prosecutorial Misconduct for Withholding Evidence that Sent Michael Morton to Prison for 25 Years for Murdering his Wife
Hmm, a sentence for 10 days vs. 25 years or 9125 days … doesn’t quite seem like justice, does it?
The NY Times has an interesting editorial regarding prosecutor misconduct. Now although we have always been a victim’s rights advocate and pretty much side against defense attorneys, their sleazy tactics, and their even worse clients, it has to be said that to maintain justice and our legal system prosecutors need to be help to a high standard. Thus we are presented with the situation where former Williamson County, TX District Attorney Ken Anderson was found guilty of prosecutor misconduct. Anderson “intentionally” failed to turn over evidence, even after the judge had ordered so, of a transcript of a phone conversation revealing that the Mortons’ 3 year old son had described his mother’s killer as a “monster” who was not his father. Michael Morton was found guilty of beating his wife to death and sentenced to life in prison. However, in 2010 DNA testing confirmed that Morton was not the killer, but not after he spent almost 25 years in prison. However, for his act of “prosecutorial misconduct” that sent a man to prison for nearly 25 years, Anderson got 10 days in jail. HUH? I guess the public can take solace in the fact that he can never practice law again, but 10 days, really?
For what may be the first time on record, a former prosecutor in Texas is going to jail for failing to turn over exculpatory evidence in a murder trial. The 10-day jail sentence for the prosecutor, Ken Anderson, is insultingly short — the victim of his misconduct, Michael Morton, spent nearly 25 years in prison. But because prosecutors are so rarely held accountable for their misconduct, the sentence is remarkable nonetheless.
In 1987, Mr. Morton was convicted of beating to death his wife, Christine, and sentenced to life in prison. He maintained his innocence, and in 2010 DNA testing confirmed that he was not the killer.
Even before a Texas court vacated Mr. Morton’s conviction, his lawyers alleged that Mr. Anderson, the prosecutor in his case, had deliberately withheld evidence that would have exonerated him. During Mr. Morton’s trial, the judge had ordered Mr. Anderson to turn over any such evidence and received only a few documents in return. In fact, Mr. Anderson possessed many documents he did not turn over, including a transcript of a phone conversation revealing that the Mortons’ 3-year-old son had described his mother’s killer as a “monster” who was not his father.
Anderson resigned his office of district judge in September, a job he’d held since leaving his post as Williamson County’s top prosecutor in 2002. Faced with a civil lawsuit and criminal charges stemming from the Morton case, he accepted a deal to satisfy both issues Friday.
As part of the deal signed off on by District Judge Kelly Moore, Anderson pleaded no contest to a 1987 criminal contempt of court charge for lying about evidence that could have cleared Morton. He’s ordered to serve 10 days in jail, pay a $500 fine and complete 500 hours of community service over the next five year.
Anderson has also volunteered to resign from the state bar and give up his ability to practice law. As a result of the deal, he will not be charged with any criminal offense.
As we said above, it is important for prosecutors to be held to a high standard, our legal justice system counts on it. Unfortunately prosecutorial misconduct occurs far too often as some DA’s lose sight of legal ethics to a must win at all cost. Just recently during the George Zimmerman murder trial in the death of Trayvon Martin, we saw that the defense, Mark O’Mare and Don West, were accusing the prosecution of withholding evidence.