WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) - After a 10-month investigation, the State Bar of Texas claims state District Judge Ken Anderson withheld evidence in the Michael Morton case that may have led to Morton's wrongful conviction in the murder of his wife in 1987.
The State Bar Disciplinary Council filed a disciplinary petition against Anderson on Oct. 4 in Williamson County, one year to the day that he was released from prison. It alleges Anderson knew about the existence of several pieces of evidence and withheld them from the defense counsel.
Morton was convicted by a Williamson County jury in 1987 and sentenced to life in prison for the beating death of his wife Christine. He served almost 25 years before new DNA evidence cleared him in October 2011.
The State Bar case against Anderson cites five pieces of evidence withheld by prosecutors in the Morton case, including a transcript of a taped interview between lead investigator Don Wood and Morton's mother-in-law, where she disclosed that the Morton's son, then 3 years old, described witnessing the murder and said his father was not home at the time.
"The State Bar carefully considered all the evidence against Mr. Anderson before taking this historic step," said John Raley, a Houston attorney who represented Morton pro bono in his appeal. "I am confident he will be held accountable."
The investigation also found that during a pre-trial hearing in the case, Anderson told the trial court he had no evidence favorable to Morton. The State Bar said, "that statement was false." It also alleges Anderson violated five of the Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.
"We respectfully disagree with the positions taken and the allegations made by the State Bar Disciplinary Council," said Anderson attorney Eric Nichols. "We will defend against these allegations in the public forum of a Court of Law."
District Judge Kelly G. Moore of the 121st District Court in Terry and Yoakum counties has been appointed to preside over the case. No hearing date has been set.
If the judge determines Anderson did commit these offenses, punishment could include anything from a public reprimand, to a suspension of his law license, to losing his license completely. If that occurs, Anderson could serve out his term as a Williamson County District Judge, but would not be allowed to run for re-election.
Last year, there were more than 7,239 grievances filed with the State Bar -- 402 resulted in some kind of disciplinary action and of those, 38 people were disbarred.
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