GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) - Former prosecutor Ken Anderson on Friday offered an emotional apology to Michael Morton for the wrongful conviction of murdering his wife more than 25 years ago.
"I know what me and my family have been through for 18 months of false accusations, and it doesn't even register in the same ballpark of what you went through," Anderson said to Morton on the final day of the weeklong court of inquiry into whether evidence was improperly withheld during the 1987 trial.
"You've been incredibly gracious in your attitude towards me," continued Anderson, now a state district judge. "I apologize that the system screwed up. I've beaten myself up on what I could have done different and I don't know. Maybe the Norwood prosecutor has something the sheriff's office missed."
Both sides wrapped up late in the afternoon and Judge Louis Sturns said his decision is still weeks away after the lawyers file their final paperwork with the court.
But during more than six hours of testimony on Day 5 of the court of inquiry, Anderson rejected any suggestion that he improperly suppressed evidence that might have helped Morton's lawyers win an acquittal.
Morton spent 25 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of killing his wife, Christine.
When he was on the stand in the proceeding that could lead to charges being filed against Anderson, Morton urged Sturns to "be gentle" with the former Williamson County district attorney.
"I have a little empathy for what it's like to have everybody coming after you and the accountability and that sort of thing is necessary and the consequences of our actions are inevitable," Morton said earlier in the week.
The court of inquiry is asked to determine:
- 1. Whether Ken Anderson committed the offense of contempt of court
- 2. Whether Ken Anderson violated Texas Penal Code – Tampering with or Fabricating Physical Evidence.
- 3. Whether Ken Anderson violated Texas Penal Code – Tampering with Government Records.
Ken Anderson maintained that some of the evidence in question did not qualify as Brady material.
Asked by his attorney Eric Nichols how it felt to be the prosecutor who sent an innocent Michael Morton to prison for 25 years, Anderson softly uttered "It is my worst nightmare."
Before testifying about the Michael Morton case, Anderson gave a detailed look at his background in which he helped represent incarcerated inmates and had the goal of being a defense attorney.
He said he aspired to be a defense attorney because he believed they wore the white hats and the justice system requires someone to stand up for the accused.
Anderson, whose testimony concluded at 2:40 p.m. spoke with a soft voice which was shaky at times as he was clearly fighting back emotion.
When the subject matter turned to the Morton case, Anderson bluntly denied he was ever given an order to produce field notes taken by investigator Sgt. Don Wood.
"I've gone through that record until I'm blue in the face, there is nothing in that record that even remotely says that," testified Anderson.
"There is no such order in that record,"
Anderson also warned that his memory of 25-year-old details not on record would be muddled.
"My memory is same as (Morton attorneys) Bill Allison and Bill White's, in that I don't have any."
While being questioned about his perceived attempts to block evidence and Wood's notes from entering the trial, Anderson said he objected to the defense's questioning of Wood because he felt it amounted to a "fishing expedition."
Under cross examination
Lawyer Rusty Hardin, whose role is similar to that of a prosecutor, began his questioning of Anderson by acknowledging that they have known each other for almost 30 years. He then pressed Anderson about the Court of Inquiry system.
"I spent my life's savings defending myself on accusations we now know are baseless," said Anderson, who said prosecutors do not like the idea of a court of inquiry.
Hardin asked if he would agree that court of inquiries can be helpful to the justice system at large regardless of what the judge decides in this particular case, Anderson shunned agreeing.
However, Anderson did admit that DNA testing for this case should have taken place long ago.
"In hindsight, it should have been done," testified Anderson who also said he did not want to second-guess John Bradley's decision to fight against the testing.
Hardin then grilled Anderson on whether he believes resisting and refusing to turn over notes of investigation to the defense is fair practice when trying a case.
"I wish I had not been a very good prosecutor. I wish he would have been acquitted," Anderson said about his case against Morton.
The two then wrangled over the report of the suspicious green van that never made it to the trial.
"That's the sort of evidence you routinely give defense attorneys and you don't hear about it again," said Anderson.
"Really, Judge?" Hardin replied before informing Anderson that subpoenas for witnesses concerning the van have been written for the upcoming Mark
The two disagreed on whether or not the report of the van constitutes Brady material.
They also shared varying opinions on whether a good prosecutor would turn over any and all materials to the defense.
Anderson said he does not think he could ever function as a prosecutor again because he would now be more inclined to disclose everything and that an open-file policy could run the risk of overbalancing the system.
When Hardin moved to the accusations against him and the reason for the court of inquiry, Anderson acknowledged, "I stand the chance I supposed of being handcuffed and taken to jail this afternoon."
But Anderson was adamant when Hardin began pointing to possible examples of Anderson withholding evidence.
"I'm frustrated someone would say that I created contempt of court of a judge that is dead 25 years after the fact," said Anderson. "Who knows what we were talking about?"
Anderson and his attorney on three separate occasions asked for a break to let things simmer in the courtroom and Sturns ordered the hearing to continue each time.
When Hardin began asking about the notes and reports taken by Sgt. Don Wood of the Williamson County Sheriff's Office, Anderson maintained he did not recall seeing many of them including the transcript of Eric Morton's conversation with his grandmother in which the toddler talked of a "monster that killed Mommy."
Hardin found that hard to believe.
"Are we to understand that your testimony, as a man that cared so deeply about offenses against children, that you don't have any independent memory of a child talking to his grandmother about his mother being killed?"
Anderson responded by saying "I don't know how to answer that, I have no recollection about that piece of evidence in detail."
The argument intensified when discussing Eric's comments about the "monster" and why it was not shared as evidence.
"He was a traumatized 3-year old child. You cannot attach any significance to anything he says at that point."
Anderson went on to say that the Austin-American Statesman had reported Eric seeing someone in the home and it is something he and defense attorneys would have discussed.
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