District Judge Sid Harle has agreed to a court of inquiry to determine if Judge Ken Anderson's actions in the 1987 murder trial of Christine Morton constituted prosecutorial misconduct.
Harle signed a probable cause affidavit Friday that will now go to the chambers of the Texas Supreme Court. Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson will then make a ruling on whether or not the court of inquiry should move forward.
As the Williamson County District Attorney in 1987, Anderson successively prosecuted Michael Morton for the murder of his wife, Christine. Newly-tested DNA evidence exonerated Morton, after he spent from 24 years in prison.
Friday, Morton's attorneys laid out their case to the court with strong claims that Anderson withheld key evidence during the 1987 trial that could have prevented Morton’s wrongful conviction.
Attorneys on both sides will now have the opportunity to be heard on a much bigger stage.
“We are really gratified, the thoughtful, careful and serious way in which Judge Harle undertook this entire process,” Innocence Project Director and Morton attorney Barry Scheck said. “Obviously, we are gratified with his decision to file the affidavit commencing the court of inquiry.”
Eric Nichols, an attorney for Anderson, said the court of inquiry will clear the district judge's name.
"At the end of the day, they need to back up those accusations with evidence, and we feel very comfortable that there is no evidence that would allow anyone to conclude that Judge Anderson violated any laws or any duties imposed on him as a prosecutor,” he said.
While Michael Morton was present for Friday’s hearing, Ken Anderson was nowhere to be found. Morton told YNN he has all the time in the world to see this process through.
“When you do the right thing as the judge did today, everything else falls in place. It’s just a matter of time,” Morton said.
If Chief Justice Jefferson moves forward with the court of inquiry, he will also appoint the judge and the attorney to represent the state.
Update-- District Judge Harle has honored the court of inquiry request to determine if Judge Ken Anderson committed prosecutorial misconduct in the 1987 murder trial of Christine Morton.
Harle signed a probable cause affidavit Friday that will now go to the chambers of the Texas Supreme Court. Chief Texas Supreme Court Justice Wallace Jefferson, who will then make a ruling on whether or not the court of inquiry should move forward.
Earlier-- The hearing is now in session. Sitting District Judge Ken Anderson is not present.
However, Michael Morton is in attendance.
Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley is not in the court room. Jana Duty, a Williamson County attorney running against Bradley for the DA seat this year, is present at the hearing. State Sen. Rodney Ellis was also spotted in the court room.
State District Judge Sid Harle said at the beginning of the hearing, "It's a unique circumstance, and I don't know how to best handle this. But I would rather do this publicly than behind closed doors. This hearing is an opportunity to voice things publicly."
A state district judge will decide Friday if sitting District Judge Ken Anderson should face a court of inquiry for his prosecutorial conduct in the 1987 murder trial of Christine Morton.
A court of inquiry is a public hearing where evidence is presented to the judge in an attempt to prove a crime was committed against the state.
Christine Morton was found bludgeoned to death in her Georgetown home in August of 1986. Her husband, Michael Morton, was convicted of her murder several months later. Just last year, newly-tested DNA evidence cleared Michael Morton of the crime after he spent more than two decades behind bars.
Now, Judge Sid Harle will hear evidence from Morton’s attorneys that they believe proves Anderson withheld key evidence during the original trial — evidence that could have prevented Morton’s wrongful conviction. Anderson served as district attorney at the time.
Anderson has maintained under oath that he did nothing wrong and followed the law as he saw fit in the 1980s.
Authorities have since arrested and charged a new suspect in the murder of Christine Morton. Prosecutors say Mark Alan Norwood’s DNA was found on a bandana which was found near the scene of the crime. He was arrested in his Bastrop home in December and charged with capital murder.
Investigators say Norwood's DNA is also linked to the 1988 murder of Debra Baker in Austin.