In August 2011 post-conviction DNA testing proved Michael Morton an innocent man. After spending nearly 25 years behind bars for the wrongful conviction of the murder of his wife Christine, Morton was finally able to regain the life that he had left behind. Morton has since filed a court of inquiry against Ken Anderson, the district attorney whose prosecution led to Morton’s wrongful conviction. Ken Anderson now serves as a judge for the State of Texas and denies that any misconduct occurred during Morton’s trial in 1987.
The Huffington Post defined a court of inquiry as “ a rarely used proceeding held when officials or public servants are accused of wrongdoing.” In a system where the officials are highly protected, a court of inquiry call into question the actions of those in the prosecution.
Christine Morton was beaten to death with a wooden object in the morning in August 1986. The lead investigator of the crime collected evidence that included: a police report of neighbors claiming that a man owning a green van frequented the area around the Morton home around the time of the murder, a report of the couple’s young son, Eric, who was a witness to the horrific murder of his mother claiming that a “monster”, not his father, had killed his mother while his father was gone, unidentified fingerprints as well as an unidentified foot print in the backyard. There was a substantial amount of evidence indicating that Morton had not committed the murder. However, the defense was not made aware of any of this evidence; and hence the jury did not hear any of it. The jury convicted Morton on circumstantial evidence. He was sentenced to a life in prison.
The Texas Tribune states, “Anderson insisted that there was no judge’s order requiring him to turn over that evidence. He also argued that although he was not required under law or by a judge’s order to give Morton’s lawyers the transcript or the green van report that he must have told them about it. He said he had no “independent recollection” of doing so, but faulted Morton’s lawyers for not following up on the information.”
Throughout the court of inquiry hearings, Anderson continually denied concealing exculpatory evidence and simply claims the justice system “screwed up.” If Morton was held accountable for a crime he did not commit, Anderson needs to face the same accountability. Anderson wrongfully stole 25 years from a man in which a multitude of evidence proved he was innocent. Rather than admit the system was prosecuting the wrong individual, Anderson chose to suppress the evidence and continue with legal proceedings.
Discussing Anderson and the case, Morton stated, ”I think we saw someone who is still struggling with denial and anger,” he said, “and possibly a man who has spent at least three decades in a position of power and for the first time has had to answer for his actions, and he’s very uncomfortable with that.”
As the proceeding came to a close Friday, February 8, the Judge presiding over the case is waiting on both the defense and the prosecution to file additional papers. His decision should be made within the next couple of months.
For now the public is left to question, was Morton’s conviction a result of prosecutorial misconduct or is Anderson just as innocent as he claims?