Former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson should face a court of inquiry to examine allegations that he hid evidence that could have spared Michael Morton from a wrongful murder conviction and almost 25 years in prison, a state district judge ruled Friday.
The finding means District Judge Sid Harle found probable cause to believe that Anderson violated state law in his prosecution of Morton.
But, Harle emphasized, he agreed to seek a special review court as the best way to balance competing needs, giving Anderson a chance to clear his name and Morton the opportunity to seek a greater measure of justice.
“I personally cannot imagine, having been a former prosecutor, a worse stain or tarnish on a prosecutor’s reputation, integrity or legacy,” Harle said.
The deeper examination of the allegations of prosecutorial misconduct would also serve the public’s need for answers in the high-profile case, Harle said at the close of a 75-minute hearing.
Harle’s request for a court of inquiry, an affidavit certifying that he found probable cause that state laws were broken, will be reviewed by Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson.
If Jefferson agrees, he would name a state district judge to oversee the special court, which would have the power to issue subpoenas, take testimony and make a finding about whether Anderson violated state law. Designed as a fact-finding body, the court would not issue a punishment or criminal conviction.
This is all well and good, but it seems to me that if this much care had been taken back in 1986 to protect Michael Morton’s rights, we wouldn’t need to be doing any of this today. There’s a reason why prosecutors need to be held to a high standard of professional conduct. Grits, EoW, the Trib, and State Sen. Rodney Ellis have more.