Saturday, November 09, 2013

Ken Anderson's punishment for Brady violations tepid justice

Former Williamson County DA and District Judge Ken Anderson has resigned and yesterday entered into a plea deal that requires him to give up his law license and spend ten days in jail (or nine, depending on which media outlet you believe) for withholding evidence in the Michael Morton case nearly three decades ago, a zillion news outlets have reported. Morton, by contrast, spent a quarter-century in jail because of Anderson's prosecutorial misconduct and his successor, John Bradley's decision to fight DNA testing in the case tooth and nail for years on end. Still, according to KVUE-TV in Austin:
"It's a good day," Morton, who was present in the courtroom, told media after the hearing. "When it began, when I was asked what I wanted, I said, 'The only thing that I want as a baseline is for Ken Anderson to be off the bench and for him to no longer practice law,' and both of those things have happened and more."

According to Innocent Project attorney Barry Scheck, the "more" will be an independent audit into every case prosecuted by Anderson as well as former Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley.

Scheck told media he hopes the entire process will send a message, while expressing continued frustration with Anderson.

"To this very day he still wants to somehow say, 'The system went wrong. I did nothing wrong,'" said Scheck. "That is not an example for anybody, and it is frankly disgraceful."
Mark Godsey at The Huffington Post says this is the first time ever a prosecutor has gone to jail for withholding evidence. Wrote Godsey, "What's newsworthy and novel about today's plea is that a prosecutor was for his transgressions."

A prosecutor going to jail for Brady violations may be a first, but compared to what Morton faced, it's hard to say with a straight face that Anderson was "actually punished in a meaningful way." Losing his bar license is surely a bigger deal than ten days in jail. And at his age, with his judicial pension intact, losing his license wasn't as harsh a punishment as the national media disapprobation he's endured. As justice goes, this outcome represents relatively weak tea compared to the monstrous injustice Michael Morton endured at Anderson's hands.

That said, legislation passed this year bearing Morton's name requires Texas prosecutors going forward to open up their files to defense counsel, a measure that probably would have prevented Morton from ever being convicted if it were in place back in 1986. That new law will produce greater justice than Ken Anderson will ever face. In essence, Michael Morton sacrificed most of his adult life to secure that pivotal reform. When he looks back on this misbegotten episode, that will be the most important part of his legacy, while Ken Anderson's tepid punishment will amount to a footnote.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Actually, mike nifong went to jail for one day for hiding DNA evidence and making false statements.

While Anderson has absolute immunity, it will be interesting if they can pierce it in a federal civil rights suit against Anderson.

With Anderson's judicial and prosecutor pensions, retiree healthcare and social security, he'll be fine.

The real story is Jana Duty throwing Bradley under the bus. Wow! Stay tuned!

Chasing Justice said...

Jana Duty throwing Bradley under the bus is a subplot: the real story here is how Bradley's accountabilty in the Michael Morton case has slipped from the radar. Anderson may have been placed in time-out but Bradley still has his license to practice his own interpretations of Texas law. More evidence of how the Texas State Bar protects its own. JUSTICE? more like "just-us."

Anonymous said...

Et tu Brute

Anonymous said...

912.5 days to 1. Yep, that's fair. Must be nice to have the Aryan Nation behind you.

Gadfly said...

And, let's not forget one other thing in all this. Beyond Morton being falsely imprisoned, the real killer was free to kill again. And did.

As far as suits, maybe some wrongful death suits against Anderson and Bradley by the family of Debra Masters Baker, if statute of limitations haven't expired, would take this to the appropriate level of seriousness.

Anonymous said...

So hiding exculpatory evidence for over two decades and protecting a serial killer from justice is not a crime.

Holding on to a laptop for your son is.

Got it.

Lee said...

It would be nice to see his pension and all assets confiscated and turned over to Morton. There so no punishment too great for Anderson and Bradley. Nay they rot in the deepest pits of Hell.

South Tex said...

I wish they would disbar every attorney that commits misconduct at such a high level.

Prosecutors are the worst, however. Sometimes they get so caught up in the case / making money that they forget that even though people need to go to jail they have to be able to do the right thing no matter what.

Anonymous said...

If nothing else this proves that punishment can occur without violence. I've always thought the only way to force change was by an act of extreme violence by one of those exonerated. It's been slower than what it would have been with violence, but at least it's a start.

Anonymous said...

Being a prosecutor requires more discipline and and integrity than can be found by selection through the electoral process. Looking at wrongfully prosecuted cases is just the tip of the iceberg. What about all the campaign doners, other elected officials, and elite class individuals who seldom face charges because their crimes are shitcanned by prosecutors?

Jan said...


I personally believe there are a significant number of people who have either been wrongfully prosecuted by WilCo and are serving time, parole, or living with a criminal history for a crime they did not commit. And I'm pretty sure there are a significant number of people serving or who have served long, harsh sentences that may have been guilty of something, but are serving extreme and unjust sentences.

I am especially thankful for Michael Morton, and I'm thankful for the Innocence Project. I am also thankful for Jana Duty and I hope she "WON'T BACK DOWN".

Michael Morton: "The only thing that I want as a baseline is for Ken Anderson to be off the bench and for him to no longer practice law,' and both of those things have happened and more."

Anderson and Bradley aren't out of the woods yet. That is as long as this independent audit doesn't turn out like the Texas Forensic Science Commission.

Texpat said...

Congratulations, Scott, and thanks for all you do to keep cases like this in the sunlight.

The results seem inadequate, but I doubt it would have reached this point without the hard work you provide.

Anonymous said...

These events are similar to the ones in "Carnal Society": The Texas-National Sex Scandal. Of the numerous abusers of their authority and power, only one did any prison time. Others should have been prosecuted!

Anonymous said...

Those wishing to visit the Huffington Post link provided above will be able to read only due the Comment Section being closed.

What's up with that Mr. Godsey? I thought you got credits for the amount of comments. Still a good read for it includes additional info, (500 hours of community service) & he took it nationally.

john said...

But the whole point of the lawyers' union (Bar Assoc) is they cover each other and no one ever pays a serious penalty. They rule, for lack of a citizenry that knows or cares to take up torches & pitch forks.
Those in power fully corrupted and manipulate; they voted themselves the treasury, and it beats working.
That MM "sacrificed most of his adult life," while the flaming flying monkeys remain free, IS JUST SICK---in this former land of liberty that now have the most people in prison, in the world.

Stephen Karnes said...

I think I like Lee's solution. Take both of their Law licenses, Fire them and make them send every penny of their Pensions to Mr.Morton as well as forced to sell all their assets and the proceeds given to Mr. Morton. Yes I know it's never going to happen. They are both scumbags and I truly do not know how they and their families can walk around in that County anywhere without hanging their heads in shame.

Lee said...

Mr. Karnes, Thanks for the compliment.

Anonymous said...

Why no scrutiny on then Sheriff Boutwells policies in regard to protecting a crime scene, and rules of evidence collection? Who allowed the victims brother access to the crime scene with a bandana he found himself at a construction site, then later turned in as evidence he himself placed in a bag with another item he collected? Wasn't Mortons stolen gun found in possession of one of the construction workers? When did they recover the gun? A 3yr olds testimony can be relied upon in a murder case? Children can be easily manipulated, how would you feel having your life in his hands? The Medical Examiners Report is troubling and a thorough examination of other Rulings this Doctor has made and reversed himself on might warrant a re-examination of his credentials. The GUN was stolen from the crime scene, not the bandana. Was DNA Testing necessary on the stolen gun? Could be that Morton sat in jail for 16 years and the evidence was the GUN, not the bloody bandana and this crime could have been solved before Morton spent a dozen years in jail. I'm no Anderson fan but too many unanswered questions remain and yet all we read about is the bandana and DNA. Sheriff Boutwell was a Democract, District Attorney (later Judge) Anderson a Republican, was politics involved? Why did Jana Duty support John Bradley in the decision not to test the bandana for DNA after 16 years then throw him under the bus for it? Andersons punishment by the State Bar doesn't end the controversy when cherry-picked evidence finds its way in media reports impacting public sentiment. Having said all that I'm no fan of Anderson and am glad Mr. Morton has his freedom. We should all be careful not to make or see this same mistake happen again. Justice for everyone.