According to court documents, a motion for a new trial (Click here to read motion) was filed in June 2010 based on issues of suppressed evidence by prosecutors. A portion of the motion reads (page 3 of the motion): ”Defense counsel became aware of the evidence during the discussion with the jury panel after sentencing. The State’s attorney, Tommy Coleman (second chair) and defense counsel were discussing what evidence the jurors wished they had seem. Juror number 1, Jennifer Reasner and juror number 25, Michelle, both specifically said they needed to see the sales flyer because it ‘would have most likely been exonerating.' Mr. Coleman then told defense counsel the state had been emailed the piece of evidence in question but had not produced it to the defense. When defense counsel questioned why Mr. Coleman failed to disclose the information during the trial, (defense) counsel was told ‘it’s too late now, your guys already pled.’” (emphasis in original)Like his boss, John Bradley, says the Watchdog, the same prosecutor openly mocked requests for DNA testing that ultimately exonerated Mr. Morton: "During one of the Michael Morton hearings in September of this year, Coleman was overheard by several people mocking Morton's attorney, John Raley, who had argued for the relevance of a key piece of evidence which played a pivotal role in exonerating Morton. In a demeaning tone, Coleman said, "Ewwww! Bloody bandana! Bloody bandana!" in a cynical attempt to discredit the evidence."
The prosecutor in question, as it turns out, has also served a political stalking horse for the District Attorney and the establishment faction on the commissioners court in local Williamson County political feuds:
Tommy Coleman was employed by John Bradley in 2008. Coleman announced in early 2011 his intentions to run for County Attorney, but he later withdrew his name after discovering a lack of support according to several local political observers.For the Watchdog, allegations of additional, more recent Brady violations make the writer wonder just how deep the rabbit hole goes: "With this discovery of Coleman's role involving hiding exculpatory evidence, as revealed by an official filing in the case, one has to wonder how many other times has this evidence-withholding problem has happened? Defense attorneys across the state have chided Bradley for having a closed file policy. Ironically, in one of District Judge Ken Anderson's books, he promotes an open file policy within a prosecutor’s office." (Of course, this is par for the course: Regular readers will recall that Mr. Bradley supported destruction of DNA evidence as part of plea agreements to prevent future habeas writs like Morton's based on actual innocence claims.)
Coleman has since endorsed Hal Hawes, the Williamson County Commissioners Court legal advisor, who has announced his candidacy for county attorney.
In addition to assuming the role of Hawes’ campaign manager, Coleman also launched a PAC supporting Hawes and is listed as the PAC's treasurer.
The problem with the Brady requirement for prosecutors to produce exculpatory evidence is that it assumes good faith and so imposes no penalties for non-compliance beyond - at the very worst - ordering a new trial. For most prosecutors, that's plenty of incentive to follow the rules. But for those willing to cheat to win, prosecutors are immune from civil penalties and except in rare events, face no professional consequences from the state bar disciplinary committee as a practical matter (though that group has announced they're investigating the Morton case). There might be ways to tweak the law to make prosecutors more accountable for overt misconduct, but as it stands, public disapprobation is about the worst penalty they face, even when misconduct was willful and egregious.
Grits wonders why every Brady violation where the prosecutor actually knew about exculpatory evidence and failed to disclose it - as opposed to another agency having information prosecutors were never made aware of - shouldn't result in an automatic referral by the court to the state bar disciplinary committee? I also wonder why courts and the state bar historically haven't taken such misconduct much more seriously than has typically been the case? Instead, court opinions finding Brady violations typically don't even name the prosecutor responsible, much less sanction them, allowing such conduct to be too easily swept under the rug. That should change; if they haven't already, the Williamson DA's office may soon become the statewide poster child driving reforms to strengthen Brady disclosure requirements.