The court of inquiry that was examining the behavior of then-prosecutor Ken Anderson has concluded with Anderson’s testimony in his defense. Having seen what he had to say for himself, I find myself not terribly sympathetic to him or his situation.
At times fighting back tears, Anderson called Morton’s case his “worst nightmare” but defended his conduct.
“We had a lot to be proud of, we still do,” Anderson said, his voice wavering. Then, pounding on the witness stand, he continued: “The office I ran was professional, it was competent. We did things right. We got it right as much as we humanly could.”
After testimony ended, [Judge Louis] Sturns said it will be several weeks before the parties reconvene. He did not say whether he will issue a ruling then.
Anderson, who testified Friday that he’s spent his life savings “defending myself against accusations that I think we all know are false,” claimed the judge only asked for a small portion of the police notes — and he complied.
Asked if there was any weight to accusations he hid evidence, Anderson responded that he’d reviewed the case “until I’m blue in the face. There is nothing in that record that even remotely says that.”
He was later shown a portion of the trial transcript where the judge asked: “Mr. Anderson, do you have anything that is favorable to the accused?” Anderson replied that he did not.
Anderson said all evidence could be seen differently with the benefit of hindsight. He also accused Hardin of wanting to “see me handcuffed and taken to jail” on matters “that are so bogus it’s unreal.”
Given the chance to address Morton directly, Anderson said he had been gracious since his exoneration and added, “I’ve apologized that the system screwed up and it obviously screwed up.”
“I’ve been beating myself up on what else I could have been done different,” Anderson concluded, “and I frankly don’t know.”
The Trib has a fuller version of that money quote: “I had to spend the money to hire lawyers. And I worked my entire life and now they have it,” he said. I have to say, you’d think a guy who spent a decade or more as a District Attorney would be familiar with the cost of competent defense attorneys. I’m sure some of the people he’s prosecuted could bring him up to speed on that. But be that as it may, he sure is weirdly disconnected from his role in this. I mean, “the system screwed up”? Last I checked, the District Attorney is a pretty integral part of the system. I get that he’s probably limited in what he ought to say during this proceeding, but an “I’m sorry” would have been nice.
Eye on Williamson sums it up nicely.
In watching all of this over the last year and a half or so, I’m not positive that Anderson technically broke any law. But I’m damn near positive there were moral and ethical lapses. And that former Sheriff Boutwell and Anderson knew, deep down in their souls, that Morton was guilty and were bound and determined to put him in jail – no matter what the evidence said. Their egos got in the way of reality. And that later on John Bradley was willing to keep him there for the same egotistical reasons. And lends credence to the many unfair justice stories, that are common place for anyone who has lived in Williamson County for an extended period of time.
Hopefully this will be a cautionary tale for all prosecutors that they are not the judge and jury. That they should allow everyone to look at all the evidence in a case – all the way through the appeals process – to make sure they’re not putting innocent people in jail for crimes they didn’t commit. Because, as this shows, when an innocent person goes to jail it not only ruins their life, but when the truth comes out it ruins the lives, and legacy, of those that put the innocent person in jail as well.
If there’s one other lesson that I hope everyone learns from this, it’s that if a convicted murderer requests that some old piece of evidence be tested for DNA, go ahead and let it be tested. What can it hurt? If he’s as guilty as you believe him to be, the DNA test will vindicate you. And if it proves him right and you wrong, isn’t it better to know, and to not be the villain that tried to keep the truth from coming out? Don’t be like John Bradley, that’s what I’m saying. Texas Monthly has more.