The State Bar must look into allegations that then-Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson improperly withheld evidence that could have spared Morton from a guilty verdict. Those are legitimate questions that Morton's attorneys have raised in court records. The evidence withheld includes:For my money they should also investigate current Williamson DA John Bradley who fought the release of said information tooth and nail for the last six years. Whether these "Brady violations," or failure to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense, stemmed from malice or incompetence matters little, certainly to Mr. Morton. Said the Statesman editorial writers:
A taped police conversation with Christine Morton's mother, who said the Mortons' 3-year-old son described the attack, identified key details about the murder scene and said his father was not home at the time.
A document that reported that Christine Morton's missing Visa card had been apparently recovered at a San Antonio store. There is no record that the lead was followed up in the sheriff's or district attorney's case files.
A document reporting that a check made out to Christine Morton was cashed nine days after her death, and the signature on the back appeared to be a forgery of her name.
Had those clues been disclosed, it's possible Morton never would have been convicted and the true killer found.
the State Bar can hold prosecutors who violate the law or legal ethics accountable. That responsibility is spelled out in state law, which says "The prosecutor in a criminal case shall make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense."The problem is, although the State Bar "can" hold prosecutors accountable, in practice they almost never do. Criminal defense attorneys are disciplined quite frequently, but a one-armed man could probably count up the number of prosecutors disciplined in the past decade for Brady violations and not use up all his fingers. When you're talking about a DA who went on to become a District Judge, I'd put the odds he'll be sanctioned at slim to none, with slim making plans to leave the building. Prosecutors in this state simply aren't sanctioned for withholding exculpatory evidence, for reasons that completely elude me.
The State Bar has an obligation to discover why the system failed Michael Morton. A legal system that lacks accountability and fails to correct its errors is an accessory to miscarriages of justice.
The State Bar didn't even discipline a DA or judge from Collin County after the prosecutor admitted in a deposition they'd been sleeping together during a capital murder trial. (The judge claimed they'd ceased the affair before the trial, contradicting the DA who recalled it continuing during and after the event, but either way they concealed the relationship and/or lied about it for many years after the fact). If those two weren't disbarred, I harbor little hope the State Bar will sanction Judge Anderson over the Michael Morton case. Since prosecutors enjoy absolute immunity even for egregious misconduct, the only even theoretical accountability for them lies with the State Bar disciplinary committee, and they've proven over and over they just aren't up to the task.
MORE: See Chuck Lindell's story on details and implications of withheld evidence in the Morton case.