In 1987, Michael Morton was wrongly convicted for the murder of his wife and sent to jail for 25 years. Now Ken Anderson, the prosecutor who convicted Morton despite possessing evidence that may have proved his innocence, will serve jail time, too.
Anderson possessed evidence that probably would have put the accused in the clear, including statements from the only eyewitness to the murder that Morton wasn’t the killer. He simply did not reveal this evidence, in a breach of disclosure known as a Brady violation.
In a turn of events that, according to Mark Godsey, law professor and director of the Ohio Innocence Project, happens all too often, Anderson went on to enjoy a highly successful career, becoming a judge and the district attorney of Williamson County, Texas, while Morton languished in jail.
Anderson has now been sentenced to 10 days of jail time and 500 hours of community service. His law license has been revoked, although he already resigned from the bench in September.
This marks the first time that a prosecutor will serve jail time for misconduct that led to a person’s wrongful conviction.
Morton was freed in October 2011 after over two decades of jail time. DNA evidence eventually led to his liberation.
A hearing in Georgetown, Texas on Friday found Anderson in contempt of the court for not revealing the favorable evidence to Morton’s lawyers, reported the American-Statesman. Anderson also settled a civil lawsuit filed by the State Bar of Texas accusing him of misconduct.
“It’s a good day,” Morton said after the hearing. “I said the only thing that I want, as a baseline, is Ken Anderson to be off the bench and no longer practicing law — and both of those things have happened, and more.”
Innocent Project attorney Barry Scheck said that an independent audit into every case prosecuted by Anderson, as well as former Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, will also be conducted.
"To this very day he still wants to somehow say, 'The system went wrong. I did nothing wrong,'" said Scheck. "That is not an example for anybody, and it is frankly disgraceful."
Anderson gave no comment during or after the hearing. He must turn himself in to the jail by Dec. 2.