Civil Liberties

Innocent Man Who Spent 25 Years in Prison Tries to Hold Prosecutor Accountable

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This week Michael Morton, who spent 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, was officially exonerated by the state of Texas. Now he is seeking a "court of inquiry" to investigate Ken Anderson, the prosecutor who put him behind bars. Morton, with support from the Innocence Project, argues that Anderson, currently a state judge, improperly withheld exculpatory evidence. It's a long shot, since prosecutors are almost never held accountable for such malfeasance, but the details, described by The New York Times, are pretty damning:

Mr. Morton, who was a manager at an Austin supermarket and had no criminal history, was charged with the beating death of his wife, Christine, in 1986. He had contended that the killer must have entered their home after he left for work early in the morning. But Mr. Anderson convinced the jury that Mr. Morton, in a rage over his wife's romantic rebuff the previous night — on Mr. Morton's 32nd birthday — savagely beat her to death.

Mr. Morton was sentenced to life in prison. Beginning in 2005, he pleaded with the court to test DNA on a blue bandanna found near his home shortly after the murder, along with other evidence.

For six years, the Williamson County district attorney, John Bradley, fought the request for DNA testing, based on advice from Judge Anderson, his predecessor and friend. In 2010, however, a Texas court ordered the DNA testing, and the results showed that Mrs. Morton's blood on the bandanna was mixed with the DNA of another man: Mark A. Norwood, a felon with a long criminal history who lived about 12 miles from the Mortons at the time of the murder. By then, Mr. Morton had spent nearly 25 years in prison.

Mr. Norwood has been arrested and charged in Mrs. Morton's death and is a suspect in a similar murder from 1988.

The DNA was not the only evidence pointing to someone else. In 1987 the judge overseeing Morton's trial ordered Anderson to turn over the prosecution's files so he could determine if they included information that would be helpful to the defense, which the Supreme Court has said must be shared as a matter of due process:

Missing from the file was the transcript of a telephone conversation between a sheriff's deputy and Mr. Morton's mother-in-law in which she reported that her 3-year-old grandson had seen a "monster" — who was not his father — attack and kill his mother.

Also missing were police reports from Mr. Morton's neighbors, who said they had seen a man in a green van repeatedly park near their home and walk into the woods behind their house. And there were even reports, also never turned over, that Mrs. Morton's credit card had been used and a check with her forged signature cashed after her death.

In a deposition, Anderson said that his memory of the case's details is fuzzy but that he recalls interpreting the judge's order narrowly. Also, he feels bad about Morton's wrongful conviction. The Times adds that "experts are skeptical that Judge Anderson could face serious punishment or disbarment, even if the court were to decide that he had committed malfeasance." And because of prosecutorial immunity, civil liability is pretty much out of the question.

More on prosecutorial misconduct and the lack of accountability for it here, here, and here

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  1. “For six years, the Williamson County district attorney, John Bradley, fought the request for DNA testing . . . “

    Why??

    1. based on advice from Judge Anderson

      next clause.

      1. And if Judge Anderson had told him to jump off a cliff?

        1. We would have had to train a new guy.

    2. Because of the numbers game. DA’s don’t want previous wins to turn into losses.

  2. Would be nice to see some accountability, somewhere, anywhere.

    1. In cases like this, poetic acocuntability. If a prosecutor is shown to have deliberately withheld exculpatory evidence, he should immediately begin serving a prisom term equal to that which he sought for the accused.

      1. No, the prison term should be life in all instances where a prosecutor withholds exculpatory evidence.

        1. With no parole. And housed with the general inmate population, of course.

          1. I could see a case for solitary confinement.

      2. I agree 100% . This would stop the problem from happening 🙂

      3. Karl,

        You nailed it.

  3. Also, he feels bad about Morton’s wrongful conviction.

    Only because it will result in points being taken off the board.

    That motherfucker should be garroted.

    1. We know he doesn’t really “feel” bad.

      1. shouldn’t it be “badly?”

        it’s an adverb after all.

        you run quickLY

        you feel badLY

        etc.

    2. I’ll bet he’d feel really bad if he were disbarred and tossed out of his sinecure. Not, like, 25 years in prison bad, but more equitably bad.

    3. If he really felt bad he would surrender his law license and quit his job so that there would not be such a sorry disgrace sitting in judgment of others.

    4. That reminds me of the south park where Cartman “feels bad” about getting caught TP-ing someone’s house.

  4. He “feels bad”; what more do you want?

    1. Yeah and Janet Reno “took responsibility” for Waco!

      So there!

  5. Newt would see justice done!

  6. Speaking of the jury nullification thread … would anyone vote to convict if Morton happened to put a bullet in Anderson’s brain?

    Only after all legal options had been pursued, of course.

    1. Of course, only after all legal options had been pursued!

    2. By “legal options” you mean a live hunt, with Anderson as the prey, right?

      We’ll be sporting and give him a 15 minute head start.

  7. For six years, the Williamson County district attorney, John Bradley, fought the request for DNA testing, based on advice from Judge Anderson, his predecessor and friend.

    Wait, WTF is a judge doing giving advice to a prosecutor in an ongoing legal dispute?

    Sounds like more candidates for tar, feathers, drawing, quartering, and cleansing fire (TFDQCF).

    On the jury nullification front, if Mr. Morton were to put a bullet into Judge Anderson’s skull, I would totally vote to acquit.

  8. Once again we see that the “rule of law” is complete and utter bullshit. It certainly doesn’t apply to the government. Anderson was ordered (rule of law, right?) by the judge to hand over all evidence as is demanded by the Constitution (rule of law, right?). He didn’t. Yet he will most likely not pay the tiniest price for it. Rule of law, right?

    1. Epi, did you miss the part where Anderson (now judge) uses the “rule of law” to pressure the new DAs to keep the case from being resurrected?

      1. You’re right; rule of law FTW! How could I be so foolish?

        1. There can be no rule of law where the state is the sole arbiter of the same.

          1. We are once again reminded that libertarianism is incompatible with the state monopolizing the administration of justice.

            One can not be a libertarian and simultaneiusly argue that we need monopoly justice.

            1. Who has argued for monopoly justice? This is like the “monopoly on force” strawman.

            2. Yo, “spirit of 1776,” the Founders were not anarchists. Just sayin’.

              1. Neither the declaration of independence nor the federal constitution set forth that the state shall have a monopoly on the administration of justice.

                Just sayin’.

                1. I’d like to say states should hold the feds accountable and vice versa. But that would require senators to be appointed by states. Someone should have thought of that.

                  Someone.

                2. “Anarchy” has a precise definition. We were not anarchists. A few excerpts from the U.S. Constitution are in order:

                  Section 1. All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States…

                  Section 2. The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States…

                  Section 4. The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof…

                  Section 5. Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business…Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings…

                  Section 7. All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills…

                  Section 8. The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States…

                  To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

                  To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations…

                  To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization…

                  To coin Money…

                  To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

                  To establish Post Offices and post Roads;

                  To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries…

                  To declare War…

                  To raise and support Armies…

                  To provide and maintain a Navy…

                  etc. etc.

                  Sounds like a “monopoly” to us. But then, anarchists are not known for intellectual rigor when it comes to objectively defined language.

                  Perhaps your “spirit” of 1776 is more fitting for the Barbary Coast?

                  1. Furthermore, and in response to your “monopoly on the administration of justice” sophistry:

                    Article III

                    Section 1. The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish…

                    Section 2.

                    […]

                    The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed…

                    Hope this helps, “Spirit of 1776.”

                    1. *

          2. There should be competing gangs of “governments”!

  9. if Mr. Morton were to put a bullet into Judge Anderson’s skull, I would totally vote to acquit.

    Hell, I’d give him two bucks and a hearty handshake, in thanks for a job well done.

    1. Two bucks?! Imagine the savings in pension costs.

  10. For six years, the Williamson County district attorney, John Bradley, fought the request for DNA testing, based on advice from Judge Anderson, his predecessor and friend.

    The ABA is all over this, I’m sure.

    1. Ow!!!
      I hurt myself laughing…

  11. Once we completely privatize the police and prisons, we won’t hear any more stories like this one.

    1. Since sovereign immunity would not apply, there would be accountability where there is none now, so, you certainly wouldn’t as many abuses as you see now.

      1. No, you stupid fuck, we just wouldn’t hear about the abuses.

        1. Yeah, the wrongfully convicted will just shut up and take it..

          1. If a person cries for justice in a lone prison cell and no one is around to hear it, does he actually make a sound?

            But I’m sure it would be in the warden’s best interest to facilitate an inmate’s possible release so that would never be repressed.

    2. Ah, the “yeah, but the free market isn’t a perfect utopia” defense.

    3. Little maxie,

      There have been several historical periods of privatized law enforcement regimes in history.

      They overwhelmingly tended towards forcing wrongdoers to reimburse or otherwise make whole their victims.

      They don’t use jails. Why? Because jails are ineffective at reforming, expensive, and do nothing for the victim). Only governments could take something so utterly worthless as a jail and make it the centerpiece of their law enforcement system.

      And only people who attended schools that teach the disasters that are government mandated curricula would think that law-enforcement necessitates jailing people.

      1. Can you direct me to the positive privatized law enforcement regimes. I want to use them when arguing with people about this subject. Thanks.

  12. Shit like this is why I’m against the death penalty. I don’t really have a problem putting a bullet in some scumbags head. It’s unacceptable to risk doing that to an innocent person when you have so much prosecuter and cop malfeasence going on though.

    1. That’s about where I am at too. Sure, some people deserve to die. I just don’t trust these fuckers to do it in anything resembling a just way.

      1. He didn’t die.

        1. Obviously. I was just making a general comment. Had he been on death row, these assholes would have fought to make sure he got executed too.

  13. I am against the death penalty for anybody *other than* government officials.

  14. Question for any lawyers out there:

    Can a defense lawyer IN ANOTHER CASE bring up shit like this against an opposing prosecutor (or even a sitting judge) or would it be the cause for it to be declared a mistrial?

    I’m thinking that character is an important weapon against shit like this since there seem to be few other options (and may be why they are so protective of closed cases).

    1. Not really.

      Oh, you can always go Al Pacino and yell stuff over the judge banging his gavel, if you’re planning on that being the last case you want to tray.

      1. What is the reasoning? Is it just considered irrelevant by decree/tradition?

        1. It’s just as irrelevant as exonerating DNA evidence. Duh.

        2. Against the rules of the guild to slander another guild member in front of non-members.

        3. What is the reasoning? Is it just considered irrelevant

          Yep, it is irrelevant to the case at hand. Now, if you have reason to believe the scumbag is also withholding exculpatory evidence in your case, I could see bringing it up.

          But out of the clear blue? No way.

          1. I understand that’s the logic and legal reasoning, but do you really believe that’s irrelevant? He’s proven he is untrustworthy in administrating justice.

            1. If the guy has a history of withholding evidence, how is that not relevant to EVERY future case said prosecutor tries?

              I suppose it’s the Wing-Tip Wall of Silence (I don’t know any lawyer clothing stereotypes so that is the best I could come up with on short notice). Reform of the justice system will not come from within the justice system.

          2. But according to the rules, you can’t do that. The legal profession makes a big show about policing it’s own, but doesn’t. Particularly when it’s a judge or prosecutor. We, the people, can’t do that either.

            “Who shall watch these watchmen?”

      2. What about a juror?

        As a juror I would try to research as best I could in my spare time the character of the prosecutor. If I have reasonable doubt as to the honesty of the prosecution, I wouldn’t even have to use jury nullification as a reason to find “not guilty”.

        Shit, I’d use the fact that the state lied just ONCE in 200 years as reasonable doubt.

        1. Knowing that the DA is lying scumbag makes you “impartial”, or at least I think that’s how the lawyers guild views it. Knowing that the defendant is a lying scumbag is just being aware of evidence though.

  15. While we are kicking ourselves in the balls, here is a look at how a BS sex charge and the resulting sex offender registry law destroyed a promising athlete’s life.

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.c…..index.html

    1. male and future pro-athlete
      -it was just a matter of time; what’s wrong with a little pre-cog justice?

      1. I assume you are trying to be funny.

    2. I do remember that, but not the details. Really sucks how you can believe someone when they lie to you but be charged with a crime like that. I mean, if she obviously looked nothing like a 16 year old, then he should be in trouble. But even when I was in school, girls that age looked a lot older than they really were.

      What’s a guy to do? Ask for ID any time he wants to shtup a girl?

      1. He wasn’t a bad kid. Even if he should have known she was 12, that should mark him for the rest of his life.

      2. I blame her parents. My oldest daughter was D cup at age 13. Whenever she left the house and there might be a possibility of normal teenage behaviour, she got a package of condoms and her real age written in Sharpie on her stomach.

        1. That is a drastic if effective measure.

          1. Unless she goes doggy.

        2. pictures or didn’t happen

      3. What’s a guy to do? Ask for ID any time he wants to shtup a girl?

        Oh it gets better. If she has a fake ID, even one good enough to fool a cop (this has gone to court before), you’re still guilty.

        1. in SOME states, this is true. these are what are referred to as “strict liability’ rules.

          when it comes to most crimes, they are patently absurd.

          if a guy meets a girl at a bar, for instance, it’s a reasonable presumption that she is 21. unless the girl literally looks prepubescent, no man should be convicted of statutory rape for having sex with a woman he meets at a bar.

          iirc, in the whole rob lowe debacle, he had met the girl at a bar.

          strict liability laws are a gross injustice in this respect, and of course the legislature is 100% to blame, since they pass them

          the remedy? (amongst others) is jury nullification

  16. If it had been me, I would deal with the prosecutor in a not so kind way.

    1. The asshole judges, too.

  17. drawn and quartered

    that is all

  18. In Texas we have a long and proud tradition of “good old boy” systems of governance and justice. This doesn’t surprise me at all.

    1. In The Commancheros, a whole bunch of Texans lied about Stuart Whitman being in Texas when he was really in Louisiana. So it’s been going on for a long time for sure.

      1. The Oxbow Incident was in Texas wasn’t it?

  19. Exception, not rule.

  20. If you click through the links and go to the Texas Tribune piece on Anderson’s deposition, you find out he is every bit the sociopathic piece of human garbage you would expect him to be. Get this

    Early in the questioning, Scheck reminded Anderson of words he wrote in his 1997 book Crime in Texas. Describing the work he did as a prosecutor, Anderson wrote, “Trials are won and the truth is exposed because of detailed, painstaking preparation done before the first witness is sworn in. … Someone has to master the hundreds of details.”

    In the book, last revised in 2005, Anderson also described his relationship with former Sheriff Jim Boutwell, who has since died but was in office during the Morton investigation. “Perhaps no sheriff and district attorney had a closer working relationship than Jim and I had,” Anderson wrote. “We painstakingly pieced together circumstantial murder cases.”

    He wrote a detailed account of visiting the restaurant where Michael and Christine Morton had dinner the night before her death so that he could see for himself whether the items on the menu matched up with the undigested contents in the young mother’s stomach.

    Yet repeatedly in the nearly 400-page deposition, Anderson responded that he doesn’t remember seeing key pieces of evidence that Morton’s lawyers discovered in the district attorney’s files and in the sheriff’s investigation records.

    In a discussion about the transcript describing Eric’s “monster” sighting, Anderson said, “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it before the last couple of weeks.”

    And later, he said, “I can’t remember a darn thing about that. If there was information about Eric seeing the monster … in our possession, there is no way on God’s green earth I wouldn’t have told the defense about it unless we had already been talking about it.”

    When Scheck asked a series of questions about the use of Christine Morton’s credit card, Anderson said, “If I was aware of this information and it had not been run to ground and determined to be totally without merit, there’s no way I wouldn’t have turned it over.”

    Anderson seemed to become frustrated with Scheck’s repeated referral to his book. “All right, you’re all hung up on that quote from the book, so I don’t know how to keep responding to that. You write in a book with a little bit of liberty,” he told Scheck. “It was hyperbole based on fact.”

    I need to quit my job and go to work for the innocence project. I can’t imagine the pleasure I would get from going to work every day and getting to kick around pieces of shit like this.

    1. Why not file lawsuits in behalf of folks like Morton challenging absolute judicial immunity?

      You can start by looking at Douglas’ dissent in Pierson v. Ray.

      Although he was a new dealer and roosevelt rumpswab, I would take Douglas over Rehnquist or Scalia every day of the year plus February 29th.

    2. I can’t imagine the pleasure I would get from going to work every day and getting to kick around pieces of shit like this.

      Are you kidding? It would drive me to drink – more.

      You can uncover the worst malfeasance imaginable and the scum-sucking SOB will walk away untouched. Sovereign immunity bitches.

      In such circumstances I could totally understand someone believing that a bullet to the forehead was the only appropriate remedy.

      1. I guess I like frustration. And death is too good for him.

  21. One of the comments to the Texas Tribune article on his deposition.

    Christopher Eddleman via Texas Tribune on Facebook

    I was convicted by this man in the 80s , although I did not understand the legal system at the time I allowed these unethical men to warehouse me in TDCJ, for 4 long years of my life. I’m not a vengeful person although I am glad that finally someone has finally brought to light what so Many don’t have the resources to do, and that’s enlighten the masses on what men in power have abused, twisted and manipulated the law to fit their interest. They had no concern for human need and masqueraded behind the law to convict and destroy so many lives. I found out I was HIV positive In 1987 in prison, with no compassion or anyone asking how I contracted it, all this said I am able to recall all that’s happened to me and now Ken Anderson should also , or he should step aside and allow these atrocities to be investigated at the fullest extent of the law!!!!!

    http://www.texastribune.org/te…../comments/

    Great mother of God I need a drink. Fuck

  22. No Tony on this thread arguing for government supremacy.

  23. Hang ’em high. The prosecutor should be sent to pound him in the ass prison. His assets seized, his family kicked out of their homes, and the knowledge that he’ll never get it back and that he’s destroyed for life. That is the only justice.

    1. Judge Anderson lives in Georgetown with his wife Martha and sons Daniel and Karl. He is an active volunteer and merit badge counselor with the Boy Scouts. He and Martha teach a sixth grade Sunday school class at Palm Valley Lutheran Church in Round Rock.

      From his profile on the county website. I can just hear the sniveling now. But Judge Anderson was such a nice man. What about his poor family? I would hope his wife would kick his ass out on the street.

      1. Hmmm, I’m only 10 miles or so from Georgetown….

      2. Isn’t the definition of a sociopath a person with a complete lack of empathy? People who fuck over other people to advance their careers are definitely NOT nice people.

        1. Yup. The only difference between him and a serial killer is that he has good impulse control. Only someone without any conscience or empathy could do what this guy did.

      3. He hides behind the Law and God.

        1. And good intentions.

          1. And for those folks with good intentions, please stop your paving now.

            That is all. Thank you.

  24. Aww, Sullum, you were doing so well with the alt-text. It’s not time for a double-dip regression.

  25. So was this our Friday/Christmas ballpunch early?

  26. Well, I think we’re down to two choices on the judge. He is either

    (1) Utterly incompetent to be an attorney or a judge (he either didn’t see the exculpatory evidence or didn’t realize what it was), or

    (2) A sociopath (he saw it, knew what it was, and affirmatively decided to conceal it and convict an innocent man anyway).

    I don’t see a third option.

    Let’s not forget, there were plenty of other people who knew about this evidence, too. And not a single one of them said a single goddam thing.

    I wonder if there is a statute of limitations for contempt of court, because it sure looks to me like he violated a judge’s order and is guilty of it.

    1. You’re a Texas lawyer. Can you do anything? (Short of murder.)

      1. Not really, no. I’m just a lowly in-house counsel.

        He’s a judge in Georgetown, over by Austin. Here’s his state bar page:

        http://www.texasbar.com/AM/Tem…..tID=223368

  27. It’s crap like this that makes me start spitting all over others when the judicial system comes up in polite conversation. What a morass of amoral motherfuckers we have in office. I’d sooner trust the damn mafia, at least they’re honest about what they’ll do to you if you don’t hold up your end of the bargain.

    1. You can at least pay the mafia off. What do you do with this bastard? It is like a big machine that eats people. Just pray you don’t get in its way.

  28. For every year a person wrongly spends in prison, the prosecutor should have to spend a week in jail without pay.

    1. With a rabid honey badger chained to his leg.

      1. I would think that the chain would slow down the honey badger too much. How about just giving him some parachute pants and tying off the ankles to house the little critter?

  29. Now, if he were to visit Mr. Anderson with a bit of the B&E, a little pounding about the head and ears, basic assault and battery type ass-kicking … could he get off with time served?

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