Dismissing former prosecutor Ken Anderson’s defense as strained, feeble and outrageous, lawyers for Michael Morton renewed calls Wednesday for a special court to examine allegations that Anderson intentionally hid evidence to ensure Morton’s conviction for a murder he did not commit.
Anderson denied any wrongdoing in a strongly worded court brief, filed two weeks ago, that accused Morton’s lawyers of building their accusation around falsehoods, incomplete facts and an incorrect reading of trial records.
Morton’s lawyers accuse Anderson, who was Williamson County’s district attorney for more than 16 years, of hiding five pieces of favorable evidence, including a police interview indicating that the Mortons’ 3-year-old son witnessed his mother’s attack and said his father was not home at the time.
A portion of the police interview was found in Anderson’s trial files last summer.
Morton’s lawyers accuse Anderson of violating of two state laws: tampering with physical evidence, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison that includes concealing “any record or document,” and intentionally concealing a government record, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
In addition, Morton’s lawyers said, Anderson should be held in contempt of court, which could result in jail time, for failing to follow trial Judge William Lott’s order to provide all reports and notes compiled by sheriff’s Sgt. Don Wood, the primary investigator in the murder case.
Anderson has said he explicitly followed Lott’s instructions, arguing the judge wanted to see only one Wood report.
Eric Nichols, Anderson’s lawyer, said the new court filing “adds nothing new and merely repeats the same arguments that are based on a fundamentally flawed reading of the trial record.”
It would seem that if Anderson was truly interested in making sure everyone knows there wasn’t “any wrongdoing” in this case he would want an inquiry like this to clear his name.
More via the WilcoSun, Morton lawyers: Anderson’s silence ‘speaks volumes’.
In a 27-page rebuttal, Mr. Morton’s attorneys with the New York-based Innocence Project say the judge fails to address many of the most salient details about his conduct during the Morton trial.
Defense lawyers claimed during and immediately after the 1987 trial that the prosecution was withholding evidence suggesting Mr. Morton might be innocent. Yet Judge Anderson never attempted to explain until this month’s brief why so many police reports weren’t made available to the court, Mr. Morton’s attorneys said.
“Nor do Mr. Anderson’s counsel mention — much less explain — the damning fact that their client effectively stood mute in response to these allegations during 24 years of post-trial proceedings,” the attorneys wrote. “A quarter century later, his silence still speaks volumes.”
The brief from Anderson’s lawyers doesn’t address a statement made by Assistant District Attorney Mike Davis, who told the jury that many reports were withheld from defense attorneys. It doesn’t address defense lawyers’ motion for a new trial, which demanded information about those reports. Judge Anderson “dodged” the issue of withheld evidence during appeals, Mr. Morton’s lawyers said, and that also was not addressed in the brief.
As a result, the need for a court of inquiry to determine if the former district attorney committed criminal misconduct is still very real, Mr. Morton’s attorneys said.
Though Judge Anderson argues the statute of limitations precludes the formation of an inquiry, Mr. Morton’s attorneys say the purpose of the court would be to determine if an offense was committed, not to prosecute the judge.
If the court finds that Judge Anderson did violate the law, that could have important consequences, either through disciplinary action by the State Bar of Texas or at the polls if the judge seeks reelection, Mr. Morton’s attorneys wrote.
“The Court of Inquiry statute thus remains a wholly legitimate vehicle to investigate and pursue probable violations of this State’s criminal laws,” the attorneys said in their brief. “And it remains particularly appropriate in cases where, as here, the target of the inquiry is a public official whose misconduct might otherwise evade investigation.”
The sooner everyone that was responsible for keeping Michael Morton behind bars for 25 years for a crime he did not commit comes clean, the better it will be for everyone.