GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN/AP) - A court of inquiry opened Monday into whether Judge Ken Anderson should face criminal charges in the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton for his wife's murder.
The legal proceeding beginning Monday in Central Texas will determine whether Anderson acted improperly in 1987 when he was a district attorney who prosecuted Morton.
Morton was released in 2011 after new DNA testing showed he didn't kill his wife, Christine Morton, in 1986. Anderson is accused of hiding evidence and has denied any wrongdoing in prosecuting the case.
Tarrant County Judge Louis Sturns will hear evidence before deciding if Anderson acted improperly. Sturns could then decide whether a grand jury should review the case.
Michael Morton's recollections
Morton, 58, was the first witness. He testified that remembers being arrested and charged six weeks after the death of his wife. He was 32 at the time and working for Safeway.
Before that, however, the Williamson County sheriff offered to show his in-laws crime scene photos -- though they didn't offer him the same option.
It reportedly created a divide between him and Christine's family. They remained cordial, but it was a gradual drifting apart, Morton said on the witness stand
While doing chores with his then 3-year-old son, Eric, one day, the boy reportedly asked Morton, "Do you remember the man in the shower with the blue shirt on?"
Morton said he was stunned and told Eric he should ask his therapist.
Morton had concerns about what Eric had seen and what happened to him, but also realized it could be important to his defense and hoped his therapist could draw it out of Eric.
On his next trip to therapist, Morton told her what happened, and she then went into the room alone with Eric.
Morton's defense team discussed calling Eric as a witness. But they were reluctant because of the difficulty of putting a 3-year-old on the stand. Ultimately, they felt it was not something that could be used at trial.
Monday morning's court of inquiry included a transcript between Christine's mother, Rita Kirkpatrick, and Sheriff's Sgt. Don Wood.
Kirkpatrick told Wood about a conversation she had with Eric, where he expressed anger about missing his mother for the first time -- a week after funeral. Eric was biting, kicking and fussing.
'The monster .. hit Mommy'
She said they were alone at her home in Pearland when she was putting on makeup and Eric said, "Mommy is sleeping in the flowers," -- something Morton told him as a way to ease the conversation about death.
The tape of this conversation, however, is missing. That's why officials could not listen to it in court Monday.
The transcript continued: "Eric cried and said, "The monster is there. He hit Mommy. Mommy was crying."
Kirkpatrick kept pressing, and that's when Eric told her that Mommy stopped crying, saying the red-gloved monster was mad and carrying a basket.
Morton said Eric never mentioned anything about a monster and said that at no point during the trial was he ever aware his son told his mother-in-law these things -- not even when he served 25 years in jail.
"'It was a complete shock to me," said Morton.
Going on with the transcript, Eric told Kirkpatrick that "the monster had Daddy's gun and Mommy's purse."
Kirkpatrick asked: "Was Daddy there?"
Eric said: "No, just Mommy and the monster."
Kirkpatrick told the officer that they need to avoid the domestic angle and look for the "monster" because she had no more suspicions that Morton played a part.
That's when, according to the transcript, the officer responded by asking if Eric ever saw his father in his wetsuit -- implying that perhaps he didn't recognize his dad.
What is a court of inquiry?
A court of inquiry is an obscure and rarely used legal procedure that allows a judge to look into a case where a mistake is alleged. It's been most often used after executions -- since the state has no simple legal channel to, formally.
Judge Charles Baird ordered one in the case of executed inmate Cameron Todd Willingham but it was halted by an appeals court. Willingham was put to death after being convicted of setting a fire in 1991 that killed his three young daughters.
In October, his family filed a petition with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend a posthumous pardon.
There is no word on when the board will make that decision.
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