Brandi Grissom is liveblogging the Court of Inquiry examining Judge Ken Anderson's actions when he was the Williamson County District Attorney and his prosecution of Michael Morton. She also has an introduction to the liveblog at the Texas Tribune.
A rare court of inquiry begins today in Williamson County and will examine the role of former prosecutor Ken Anderson in the wrongful murder conviction of Michael Morton. Anderson, now a state district judge, faces potential criminal charges for contempt of court and tampering with official documents. Lawyers for Morton, who was released from prison in 2011 after spending nearly 25 years incarcerated for his wife's murder, argue that during the 1987 trial Anderson deliberately withheld evidence in violation of a judge's order.
Rusty Hardin, a former Harris County prosecutor turned high-profile defense lawyer, will act as special prosecutor in the case. He will present evidence to Judge Louis Sturns, who will oversee the unusual court process and eventually decide whether Anderson should face charges. Lawyers for Anderson will also present evidence, which they argue in legal documents will prove that their client did not violate the judge's order. They also contend that the statute of limitations has expired on any alleged violations.
Anderson has apologized for the criminal justice system's errors in the Morton case, but has maintained that he committed no wrongdoing.
"Morton’s Murder Conviction Comes to Define Anderson," is Grissom's preview published in the Texas Tribune and the Texas edition of the New York Times.
Growing up in the 1960s, Ken Anderson admired the great trial lawyers in movies: Gregory Peck in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Spencer Tracy in “Inherit the Wind.” The good guys who broke down lying thugs on the stand.
“In reality, I don’t see much brilliance in the courtroom,” Mr. Anderson wrote in his 1997 book, “Crime in Texas: Your Complete Guide to the Criminal Justice System.” “Trials are won and the truth is exposed because of detailed, painstaking preparation done before the first witness is sworn in.”
In 1985, at age 33, Mr. Anderson became the Williamson County district attorney. He held that job until Gov. Rick Perry appointed him a district judge in 2001. Mr. Anderson prosecuted hundreds of criminals, earning a reputation for persuading juries to assess harsh penalties.
One of those cases has come to define Mr. Anderson over the last year and a half as the antithesis of the truth seekers he admired. He will sit at the defense table Monday, facing a rare court of inquiry that will determine whether Mr. Anderson, now 60, should face criminal charges for his role in the wrongful murder conviction of Michael Morton. Mr. Morton, a grocery store manager, served nearly a quarter-century in prison for murdering his wife. DNA testing led to Mr. Morton’s exoneration in 2011.
Mr. Morton’s lawyers say that Mr. Anderson withheld evidence that not only pointed to their client’s innocence but allowed a murderer to remain free.
Today's Los Angeles Times reports, "Texas judge faces 'court of inquiry' into wrongful conviction." It's by Molly Hennessy-Fiske.
A Texas judge who prosecuted a man wrongfully convicted of murder and freed after serving 25 years in prison faces an unprecedented court hearing Monday on whether he should be prosecuted for mishandling the case.
Williamson County District Judge Ken Anderson faces a “court of inquiry” to address allegations that he lied and concealed evidence — in violation of the law and a judge’s order — that could have cleared Michael Morton, who was convicted in the 1986 beating death of his wife, Christine, at their Williamson County home.
Morton was exonerated and released almost a year and a half ago, after DNA tests confirmed his innocence and another man, Mark Alan Norwood, was charged in connection with the killing.
Morton is testifying Monday, his attorney told The Times.
Anderson has denied wrongdoing. His attorney, Eric Nichols, a former prosecutor with the Texas Attorney General's Office, declined to comment to The Times ahead of the hearing.
A “court of inquiry,” part of Texas law since 1965, has usually been used to examine allegations against elected officials, never to address suspected misconduct by a prosecutor. Some hope this week’s hearings lead to a greater examination of alleged prosecutorial misconduct that has led to wrongful convictions not just in Texas, but nationwide.
“There is no doubt that the eyes of Texas are going to be on this proceeding,” said Kathryn Kase, executive directror of Texas Defender Service, a nonprofit that trains and assists lawyers who represent death row inmates. “Bad forensic science is not the only reason people get wrongfully imprisoned, and we have to be dedicated to trying to stop that.”
The Austin American-Statesman is also posting live updates, "Anderson court of inquiry set to begin," by Chuck Lindell, who has been covering the Morton case since 2008.
Michael Morton, who will testify today, is in the audience with his fiancee, Cynthia Chessman. They’ve been together for a year and will be married next month. Morton is sitting with most of his lawyers, including John Raley, Gerry Goldstein and Barry Scheck, the co-founder of the Innocence Project.
The family of Debra Masters Baker is in attendance as well. Baker was beaten to death while lying in bed in her Austin home in 1988, two years after Christine Morton was killed in a similar manner in the Williamson County home she shared with Michael Morton and their 3-year-old son Eric.
State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, is here as well, but the anticipated crowds have not arrived, though the relatively small courtroom in Georgetown is slowly filling up.
Lindell's preview of the Court of Inquiry is, "Morton prosecutor faces court of inquiry this week."
Exactly 16 months after Michael Morton was freed from prison, an unprecedented hearing will begin Monday in Georgetown to determine if his prosecutor, former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson, should himself be prosecuted and possibly jailed.
Anderson faces a court of inquiry, a rare and uniquely Texas procedure that will examine allegations that he lied and conspired to conceal evidence — in violation of the law and a judge’s order — that could have spared Morton from serving 25 years in prison in the beating death of his wife.
In the time since DNA tests confirmed his innocence, Morton — who is expected to testify Monday — has worked to rebuild his life, particularly his relationship with son Eric, who was 3 when he was arrested, and a granddaughter born shortly after his release.
Anderson’s fortunes, meanwhile, have fallen.
Earlier coverage of the Anderson Court of Inquiry and Michael Morton's exoneration begins at the link.