GEORGETOWN, Texas (AP) — A Texas judge on Friday ruled that a former district attorney acted improperly when he prosecuted an innocent man who spent nearly 25 years in prison for his wife’s slaying and ordered his arrest on criminal contempt and tampering charges.
Judge Louis Sturns, of Fort Worth, issued an arrest warrant for Ken Anderson for his handling of the case of Michael Morton. Sturns said there was sufficient evidence that Anderson was guilty on all three charges brought against him: criminal contempt of court, tampering with evidence and tampering with government records.
Anderson surrendered at the courthouse, where he now serves as an elected district court judge.
Morton, 58, was released from prison in October 2011 after new DNA tests showed he did not fatally beat his wife, Christine, in their north Austin home in 1986. Another man has been arrested for the killing.
Anderson, who has been a judge in Williamson County since 2002, has apologized to Morton for what he called failures in the system but said he believes there was no misconduct in the case.
During the weeklong Court of Inquiry, the special prosecutor, Houston defense attorney Rusty Hardin, presented witness testimony and other evidence to show Anderson kept evidence from Morton’s attorneys at his trial.
The special court is a rarely used hearing that is held when officials or public servants are accused of wrongdoing. The process is similar to a grand jury proceeding, but people can defend themselves against the evidence presented.
Among the evidence Morton’s attorneys claim was kept from them were statements from Morton’s then-3-year-old son, who witnessed the murder and said his father wasn’t responsible and interviews with neighbors who told authorities they saw a man park a green van close the Morton home and walk into a nearby wooded area before the slaying.
In a videotaped deposition played during the Court of Inquiry, Anderson said he couldn’t remember if he had evidence at the time of the trial that could have cleared Morton, but if he had had such material, he would have turned it over to the defense team.
The new DNA tests, which were conducted on a bloody bandanna found near the Mortons’ home, pointed to another suspect, Mark Alan Norwood, who was arrested for the killing in November 2011. He is set to be tried in March for capital murder. Norwood also has been indicted in the 1988 slaying of an Austin woman who lived near the Mortons.
Anderson also is being sued by the State Bar of Texas for his conduct in the Morton case.