GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) - Embattled state District Judge Ken Anderson resigned his post on Tuesday after almost two years of controversy stemming from his role as Williamson County district attorney more than 25 years ago.
The governor's office confirmed the resignation.
Anderson, who long nurtured a tough law-and-order reputation, is facing being disbarred over his handling of the Michael Morton case in the 1980s. As a prosecutor, Anderson helped convicted Morton of killing his wife in 1986, but that conviction was overturned with the emergence of DNA evidence in October 2011.
At issue is whether Anderson knowingly withheld evidence he was duty bound to give to Morton's lawyers that would have aided in the defense.
A trial date is set for next week in the complaint from the State Bar of Texas that could end with Anderson's license to practice law being revoked over the Morton matter. That hearing remains scheduled regardless of Anderson's resignation.
Anderson also faces criminal charges in this case after a judge ruled there was enough evidence to show he deliberately withheld evidence. In April, he posted a $2,500 bond back on charges of criminal contempt of court, tampering with evidence and tampering with government records.
No trial date has been set on those charges.
Anderson has long contended that he acted properly in the Morton case.
"I have spent the past 28 years as an elected official," he said in a statement. "It has been an incredibly rewarding experience as Williamson County has transitioned from a sleepy rural county to the dynamic county it is today. I greatly appreciate the support I have received from the public, the Bar, the law enforcement community, judiciary, and other public officials.
"There comes a time when every public official must decide that it is time to leave public life. For me and my family, that time is now. For the foreseeable future I will be focused solely on making the transition into private life."
Perry will appoint his replacement.
Morton spent some 25 years in prison in the death of his wife, Christine. He insisted he was innocent throughout his incarceration.
A bandana found near the Morton home in Williamson County finally was tested for DNA evidence over the objection of prosecutors pointing to another suspect. That suspect, Mark Alan Norwood, has since been indicted on a capital murder charge in the killing.
Norwood is also indicted in a second killing from the 1980s. Debra Baker was killed Jan. 13, 1988, well after Michael Morton had been falsely convicted.
Present Williamson County DA Jana Duty said Anderson's resignation from the 277th State District Court will bring some "stability and continuity" to the court.
"There has been a lot of upheaval which unfortunately, has been a big distraction for my prosecutors in the 277th," she said. "It's time to focus on getting our felony cases resolved without any more distractions."
Barry Scheck and John Raley, who assisted Morton in the effort to win exoneration, called the resignation "long overdue."
"Judge Anderson deserves a fair trial, but if there are findings against him in either proceeding, we would expect that appropriate penalties be imposed,” they said.
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