Former Prosecutor (Now Judge) Arrested and Charged for Past Prosecutorial Misconduct

I’m told that such arrests and charges are very rare, so I thought this was noteworthy, from the Austin American-Statesman, April 19, 2013 (thanks to Lawrence Goldman [White Collar Crim Prof Blog] for the pointer):

Former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson was arrested … after a specially convened court found that he intentionally hid evidence to secure Michael Morton’s 1987 conviction for murder.

In a blunt and scathing ruling, District Judge Louis Sturns said Anderson acted to defraud the trial court and Morton’s defense lawyers, resulting in an innocent man serving almost 25 years in prison.

“This court cannot think of a more intentionally harmful act than a prosecutor’s conscious choice to hide mitigating evidence so as to create an uneven playing field for a defendant facing a murder charge and a life sentence,” Sturns said.

Sturns, presiding over a court of inquiry that examined the Morton prosecution, found probable cause to believe that Anderson broke two state laws and committed criminal contempt of court for lying to Morton’s trial judge. He then signed a warrant for Anderson’s arrest as required under state law governing courts of inquiry….

Sturns’ ruling is the first step in a potential criminal case against Anderson, who was Williamson County’s celebrated law-and-order district attorney for 16 years before he became a district judge in 2002. His current term as judge will end in 2014. State law does not require him to step down as the case against him progresses….

Morton was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his first wife, Christine, in their Williamson County home. He was freed and declared innocent in 2011 after DNA tests pointed to another man as the killer….
Sturns told the standing-room-only courtroom that the evidence showed that Anderson improperly concealed two pieces of evidence that could have helped Morton fight the murder charge:

• The transcript of a police interview revealing that the Mortons’ 3-year-old son, Eric, witnessed the murder and said Michael Morton wasn’t home at the time.

• A police report about a suspicious man who had parked a green van near the Morton home and, on several occasions, walked into the wooded area behind the house.

Anderson also improperly concealed the documents from District Judge William Lott, who presided over Morton’s trial, Sturns said.

“Judge Lott specifically asked Mr. Anderson in open court whether the state had any evidence that was favorable to the accused,” Sturns said. “To which Anderson replied, ‘No, sir.’ ” …

Judge Sturns’ report is here (thanks to Grits for Breakfast for the pointer).

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes