GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) - Former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson on Wednesday admitted that Michael Morton was innocent and he apologized to the man who spent 25 years behind bars on a false conviction.
"We got it wrong," Anderson told reporters on the courthouse steps.
Anderson, now a state district judge, made the comments after undergoing some 12 hours of deposition last week where he was questioned by Morton's lawyers. Morton was set free last month after DNA proved that he did not kill his wife, Christine, in 1986.
"DNA testing was not available," Anderson said referring to the time period when Morton was on trial. But he rejected any suggestion that he acted with malice in not pursuing that testing once it did become available.
"In my heart, I know there was no misconduct whatsoever," Anderson said. "I really want to apologize to Mr. Morton. The system failed."
For about 20 minutes, Anderson answered to claims of prosecutor misconduct and withholding evidence in the case which led to Morton's conviction.
Anderson says his memory about the specifics concerning the case's prosecution has faded after 25 years.
"We are talking about 25 years ago. I have no ability to recall what happened or what I was thinking and why I made decisions in a trial 25 years ago," said Anderson who also told reporters he would welcome an investigation by the state bar.
According to Anderson, depositions held since Morton was released will also show both sides of the story and why certain evidence was not heard.
Speaking very slowly and carefully choosing words throughout the press conference, Anderson said that Morton's conviction has "made him sick," however, Morton did pass along words to him that were "kind and gracious" while sitting in on depositions.
There to hear Judge Anderson apologize was Caitlin Baker and Lisa Conn, who are the daughter and the sister of Debra Baker. Baker was murdered after Christine Morton.
Police now say Norwood is a suspect in the Baker murder as well.
"If he hadn't focused on Michael Morton, it could be a totally different life right now. I could have my mother right now," said Caitlin Baker.
Added Conn: "They've betrayed our trust and I'm horrified to be a citizen in Williamson County I don't trust the justice system I'm embarrassed to say I live in Williamson County."
Baker's family say they're glad Anderson apologized to Morton but wish he had taken more responsibility for what went wrong.
"If he really feels bad he should move on, prove it and resign - retire to Florida somewhere. I can't imagine justice being done for anybody with a man like that being in the courtroom," said Baker.
Lawyer Sam Bassett, who represents the Baker family, said the "family now is left wondering if Debra would still be alive if law enforcement had not eliminated other possibilities when they wrongfully targeted Michael Morton as the killer."
"The Baker family nightmare of over 25 years could be made worse if the passage of time proves to be an impediment to a successful prosecution of Debra's killer," Bassett said. "To make matters worse, the failure of prosecutors to agree to subsequent DNA testing in the Morton case created even more delay and further blockaded the search for truth."
The state bar continues to investigate whether Williamson County prosecutors violated state law by withholding evidence in Morton's trial that might have acquitted him.
Anderson says he welcomes the state bar investigation.
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