Senator John Whitmire, D-Houston, filed Senate Bill 825 yesterday which would increase the statute of limitations for filing a complaint against a prosecutor for alleged misconduct with the State Bar .
The reform bill comes in the wake of the Michael Morton case, in which former District Attorney Ken Anderson is accused of withholding key evidence in the case. As a result, Morton was wrongfully convinced and spent 25 years in prison, while the real culprit went on to kill another person.
SB 825 would start the clock on the statute of limitations at the time of a wrongfully convicted person’s release from prison rather than at the time when the ethical violation occurs. The statute of limitations in Texas is four years, meaning that for people like Morton who are only able to uncover prosecutorial misconduct decades after trial, there is still a mechanism to hold prosecutors responsible.
Except in extraordinary cases like Morton’s, where the State of Texas decided to hold a rare court of inquiry into Ken Anderson’s actions, state bars are practically the only avenue left to hold prosecutor’s accountable since the Connick v. Thompson decision. Yet there is reason to believe that state bars are not up to the task.
SB 825 would increase the number of claims of prosecutorial misconduct that could be brought to the Texas State Bar. It would also require that attorneys found guilty of violating the rules of discovery be publicly reprimanded.