Today's Austin American-Statesman reports, "Special court will look at former DA's role in wrongful prosecution." It's written by Chuck Lindell.
A special court will examine whether Georgetown District Judge Ken Anderson acted improperly when, as Williamson County's district attorney in 1987, he prosecuted Michael Morton for a murder the authorities now acknowledge he did not commit.
Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson convened a court of inquiry Thursday to examine allegations, leveled by Morton and his lawyers, that Anderson hid evidence that could have spared Morton from the murder conviction and almost 25 years in prison.
Jefferson also appointed District Judge Louis Sturns of Fort Worth to conduct the court of inquiry, a rarely used feature of the Texas criminal code designed to determine whether state laws have been broken.
"This is a historic moment for Texas justice," said John Raley, a Houston lawyer who has represented Morton for free for the past eight years.
The court of inquiry was the latest in a series of extraordinary legal events that began last summer when DNA tests, conducted after a six-year court fight with current District Attorney John Bradley, pointed to another man as the killer of Morton's wife, Christine.
Brandi Grissom posts, "Fort Worth Judge to Lead Ken Anderson Court of Inquiry," at the Texas Tribune.
Tarrant County state district Judge Louis Sturns will lead a court of inquiry to investigate allegations of criminal prosecutorial misconduct against former prosecutor Ken Anderson, who saw to the wrongful murder conviction of Michael Morton in 1987.
Morton was exonerated of his wife's 1986 bludgeoning death in October after DNA tests confirmed his innocence. Defense lawyers have alleged that the wrongful conviction would not have happened and Morton would not have lost 25 years in prison if Anderson, who is now a Williamson County state district judge, had not deliberately withheld evidence that indicated his innocence at the time of the 1987 trial.
Last week, Harle recommended that Justice Jefferson appoint such a court after he decided there was probable cause to believe that Anderson should face charges of contempt of court, tampering with evidence and tampering with government records.
"The record contains evidence that a public official may have committed serious misconduct, and that this misconduct may have contributed to the wrongful conviction and lengthy incarceration of ... Michael Morton, now known to be factually innocent," Harle wrote in his order.
In a letter to Sturns today, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson advised the judge that he has been assigned to oversee the unusual court proceeding. Sturns, 62, is a Republican from rural East Texas and previously served on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. He first ran for a Tarrant County judicial post and won in 1986. In an autobiographical video on his campaign website, Sturns says, "The presumption of innocence means a lot. It means that I have to do my best to make sure that I set aside preconditions or ideas that I have." He goes on to say that religion plays a role in his life and he serves as chairman of the board at his church.
"Texas judge faces inquiry on wrongful conviction," is the AP filing, via CBS News.
A proceeding known as a "court of inquiry" will determine whether Judge Ken Anderson, when he was a district attorney, failed to turn over all documents that would have supported the defendant's claims of innocence and whether he tampered with evidence and court records, according to the order signed by Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson.
Courts of inquiry can be convened when legal officials and other public servants are accused of wrongdoing, and have the power to hear evidence and summon witnesses. It is similar to a grand jury proceeding, but Anderson will have the chance to defend himself against evidence presented.
Attorneys for Michael Morton say they hope the process results in criminal charges against Anderson. Morton, 57, spent 24 years in prison before new DNA testing showed he didn't kill his wife, Christine, who was beaten to death in the couple's bed on Aug. 13, 1986. He was freed in October.
Morton's legal team accuses Anderson, the case's lead prosecutor, of keeping key facts from the defense. That included statements from the couple's then-3-year-old son that he witnessed the murder and his father wasn't responsible, and the fact that Christine Morton's credit card was used after her death. The attorneys say Anderson did not turn over all evidence police had collected, even after presiding judge William Lott explicitly ordered him to do so.
Morton, who claimed an intruder broke in and killed his wife after he left for work, was subsequently convicted on circumstantial evidence and sentenced to life in prison. Lott has since died.
"Special Court to Probe Claims Ex-DA, Now a Texas Judge, Concealed Murder Case Evidence 25 Years Ago," by Martha Neil at the ABA Journal.
Michael Morton, now 57, was freed from prison last year after serving 24 years for the murder of his wife, according to the AP. He had maintained his innocence, saying that she was slain by an intruder after he left for work, and DNA evidence finally showed that he had not committed the crime.
Anderson, who has apologized for what he calls a systemic failure but says he did nothing wrong as a prosecutor, is accused of concealing from the defense exculpatory evidence.
Earlier coverage of the Michael Morton exoneration and its aftermath begins at the link.