Ken Anderson, the former Williamson County prosecutor responsible for sending an innocent man to prison for more than two decades, will now face his own jury trial.
Visiting Judge Kelly Moore out of Brownfield, Texas--appointed by the State Supreme Court--heard oral arguments Friday from attorneys with the State Bar of Texas' Commission for Lawyer Discipline on what they believe should be stipulations for Anderson’s upcoming trial, set for Sept. 30.
The State Bar believes Anderson violated its rules and committed professional misconduct in the 1987 murder trial against Michael Morton. Anderson, acting as district attorney at the time, prosecuted Morton for the murder of his wife Christine, who was found beaten to death in her Georgetown home in August of 1986. DNA evidence later tested from the scene indicated another man, Mark Norwood, in the crime. Michael Morton was released from prison after nearly 25 years behind bars.
Earlier this year, a court of inquiry found probable cause that Anderson withheld two key pieces of evidence from the defense in the 1987 trial which could have preserved Morton’s innocence. Under what’s known as Brady law, prosecutors are responsible for handing the defense all evidence favorable to their client.
Those two pieces of evidence were testimony from the Mortons' son Eric to his grandmother. Then a toddler and the only witness to the murder, Eric said a “monster” that “wasn’t daddy” killed his mother. Also, reports of a suspicious green van parked in the Morton’s neighborhood near the date of the crime. Both evidence which the State Bar says Anderson knowingly did not disclose, and purposely withheld for years, in order to keep the case solved and Morton in jail.
An investigation led by Houston attorney John Raley in conjunction with the Innocence Project first alleged prosecutorial misconduct against Anderson, spurring Morton’s release and the Bar investigation. Now, the disciplinary arm of the State Bar wants the process to move forward so they can continue on with their own litigation against Anderson, which could mean disbarment.
State Bar attorney Laura Bayouth Poppe asked for the judge to admit transcripts from Anderson’s February court of inquiry to be used in trial. The judge said he would evaluate that evidence as it’s presented.
But Ken Anderson’s attorney Eric Nicholas argued that the procedure of court of inquiries were an “abomination of the criminal justice system.” He said that by nature, a court of inquiry ruling proves probable cause a crime was committed, not a firm judgment such as a conviction or indictment.
Further, Nicholas argued his client was an innocent man and never knowingly withheld the evidence or concealed it for the decades Morton was in prison.
Nicholas also noted that even if Anderson was found guilty, the statute of limitations would take effect and the court proceedings could not move forward.
Judge Moore says his ruling on the requests from both sides should come in seven to 10 days.