Prosecutorial Misconduct Under the Magnifying Glass in Texas

Judge faces "court of inquiry" typically used against elected officials accused of misbehavior


Michael Morton was convicted in 1986 in Texas of beating his wife to death. It turned out he was innocent, and DNA evidence ultimately freed him after 25 years behind bars.

But his story doesn't end there. Morton has gone after Ken Anderson, the prosecutor behind his conviction, now a Texas judge. Anderson stands accused of withholding holding important evidence that should have been turned over to Morton's attorney.

Remarkably, Texas is formally examining Anderson's case in a "court of inquiry" to determine whether or not the judge's behavior as a prosecutor should be punished – perhaps even prosecuted. Via the Los Angeles Times:

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."

This court of inquiry begins today. The hearings are open to the public, and should the judge conclude Anderson may have broken state law in prosecuting Morton, he faces an arrest warrant and possible criminal trial.

The State Bar of Texas has also filed suit against Anderson seeking a civil trial that could end with his disbarment (or other penalties).

Jacob Sullum looked at the Morton case back in 2011 when he was officially exonerated.