The prosecutor in the Michael Morton case in Texas, in which the defendant was exonerated, has pled guilty to criminal contempt for intentional non-disclosure of exculpatory evidence and will give up his law license, perform 500 hours of community service, and serve 10 days in jail. Among the withheld evidence was the account of an eyewitness, the defendant’s son, who said he was not the murderer.
No matter what one’s views are on this unprecedented event, it should raise consciousness about the risk of withholding substantial exculpatory evidence and risking the conviction of an innocent person.
In an unprecedented move against prosecutorial misconduct, former District Attorney Ken Anderson was arrested and released on $7500 based on charges that he violated state evidence tampering statutes and committed contempt of court when he violated a court order by suppressing powerful exculpatory evidence in the decades-old Michael Morton case. Morton was prosecuted for murder but was exonerated through DNA evidence after he served nearly 25 years in prison. District Judge Louis Surms, who is sitting as the court of inquiry into the Morton conviction, also issued an order to show cause requiring Anderson to appear on a criminal contempt citation.
Judge Sturms found that Anderson had concealed two critical pieces of evidence: a police interview transcript that showed Morton’s young son had witnessed the murder and reported that his father had not been home at the time; and evidence that a man with a green van parked near the Morton home had been seen walking repeatedly into the woods behind the house.
Michael Morton Prosecutor Will Face Criminal Charges for Withholding Evidence by Innocence Project (Apr. 2013)