Former prosecutor-turned-judge Ken Anderson has received a jail sentence of 10 days and been disbarred from the Texas legal profession for withholding exculpatory evidence in the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton. Anderson took a plea after a district court judge found him in contempt of court for misleading the judge in Morton’s case about exculpatory evidence in his possession. He was facing charges of tampering with evidence which held a lengthy maximum prison sentence when he decided to accept a plea to ten days in prison, a $500 fine, 500 hours of community service. In addition, he agreed to disbarment in order to settle a civil lawsuit filed against him by the State Bar of Texas.
Anderson’s incarceration for prosecutorial misconduct is historic and has received international attention.
From NBC News:
Gerald Goldstein, an attorney for the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal clinic affiliated with the Yeshiva University Law School, said Anderson’s sentence, however brief, was precedent-shattering.
“This is the first time in the country’s history that a prosecutor has been found guilty of criminal contempt, will go to jail and be stripped of their law license,” Goldstein told NBC station KXAN of Austin.
This is not the first time Anderson has made history: he was the first prosecutor to be subjected to a Court of Inquiry in the state of Texas for unlawfully withholding evidence, and the first to be handed over for criminal prosecution.
Anderson was District Attorney of Williamson County for sixteen years. Fears that he committed similar misconduct in other cases during this period have been met by an announcement from Barry Sheck of The Innocence Project that an independent review will be conducted to unearth any other evidence that Anderson might have hidden.
From the Austin-American Statesman:
The review, in conjunction with current Williamson County District Attorney Jana Duty, will be conducted by the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, the Innocence Project of Texas and Innocence Project of New York, he said.
“When you have individuals like Ken Anderson who engage in misconduct, such people tend to be serial offenders,” Scheck said, proclaiming Anderson a “disgrace.”
To Michael Morton, the victim of Anderson’s misconduct who wrongly spent 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife, Christine, Judge Kelly G. Moore, who presided over Anderson’s hearing on Friday, said:
“In a case like this, sometimes it’s hard to say what meets the ends of justice and what doesn’t. There is no way that anything we can do here today can resolve the tragedy that occurred in these matters. I’d like to say to Mr. Morton, the world is a better place because of you.”
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