GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN/AP) - The prosecution rested its case Thursday afternoon in the inquiry into District Judge Ken Anderson and his action during the 1987 murder trial that put Michael Morton behind bars for 25 years, convicted of murdering his wife, Christine. Morton always said he was innocent.
For their first witness, Anderson's team called former Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley to the stand to deliver some much anticipated testimony.
Bradley said during the time he and Anderson both worked in the DA's office in the 1990's, they talked about the Morton case on a few occasions.
Anderson was proud of the result of the murder case, according to Bradley, and he said it seemed that Anderson always felt very strongly that Morton was guilty.
Bradley said that back in 1990, the first time the Morton case arrived on his radar, DNA test requests were very rare.
When the Innocence Project began pressing for DNA testing around 2005, Bradley said he would periodically consult with Anderson about facts of the Morton case, but ultimately decisions concerning DNA testing were made by Bradley. He testified that Anderson's strong belief in Morton's guilt is one of the things that led Bradley to oppose DNA testing.
Bradley believed there was no reasonable likelihood that a DNA test would produce a third party as a killer.
"We certainly felt the record stated he was guilty," he said. "I had no reason to doubt opinions [that Morton was guilty] at that time."
Bradley said he relied upon Anderson to be forthcoming about the Morton case.
However, Bradley said conversations about notes, reports and other evidence now alleged to have been withheld never came up when talking to Anderson. Had he known there was potential material that had been not been introduced at trial, Bradley contents that he would have ordered a review of the file.
Bradley's testimony featured some tense moments between he and special prosecutor Rusty Hardin even after the two acknowledged for the court that their relationship has gone back many years.
One particularly awkward exchange came when Hardin asked Bradley if he had ever recommended Anderson's tactic of not calling an investigator as a witness at trial to prevent the defense team from getting access to reports and notes.
Bradley responded by saying he could not recall.
Hardin then asked if he understood what the rules were for not recalling something under oath.
"If you are implying that I am lying under oath," said Bradley. "It is out of line."
In afternoon testimony, Mark Landrum, the foreman for the jury that convicted Morton, took the stand.
Landrum said of all the evidence presented to the jury, the medical examiner's estimation about Christine Morton's time of death carried the most weight.
The estimation, based primarily on stomach contents, was that Christine Morton died before Michael Morton left their home the morning of the murder.
Anderson did a great job presenting the case with the facts provided, according to Landrum, who was 26 years old at the time.
Although the defense opened up some doubt with their closing statement, Landrum testified that Anderson quickly eliminated that doubt with facts.
However, Landrum said the report about a suspicious green van and young son Eric Morton's account in 1987 of a "monster" would have given the defense's argument much more credence.
"I wish I would have been given the opportunity to know this when making our decision," said Landrum.
"It was very detailed," said Landrum about Eric Morton's account. "I never in a million years would have thought Michael would have thought he did that in front of his son.
Landrum did not hear anything about the Morton case until years later when a reporter called him about putting an innocent man in prison.
After that phone call, Landrum contacted John Bradley ,who was the district attorney at the time. Bradley assured Landrum that Morton was "a desperate man grasping at straws."
After a late night of testimony that did not end until 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Morton's former defense attorney Bill Allison remained on the stand Thursday morning as Anderson's legal team grilled him about claims evidence was withheld from him during Morton's 1987 murder trial.
Allison struggled to remember what evidence the defense team knew about 25 years ago as both sides pressed him on details. Towards the end of his testimony, he began to get emotional.
"I feel like I let Michael down in a way," he said as he wiped tears away from his eyes.
Earlier, Eric Nichols showed the court a letter from Judge William Lott acknowledging that the judge reviewed reports from Sgt. Don Wood, the investigating officer in Christine Morton's murder.
Allison has said he did not have access to those reports when preparing to defend Morton.
Most of Nichols cross-examination of Allison was spent trying to reveal ways Morton's defense did not take advantage of opportunities to introduce evidence into the trial.
Specifically, Nichols got Allison to admit they
did not ask Sheriff Jim Boutwell to produce evidence they had previously tried to obtain by subpoena.
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