Thursday, November 20, 2014

TX Prosecutor Punished For Wrongful Conviction Of Innocent Man

Ken Anderson, a former prosecutor who then went on to become a judge, will suffer the consequences (though not much) of having intentionally sent an innocent man to jail for 25 years.

Today in Texas, former prosecutor and judge Ken Anderson pled guilty to intentionally failing to disclose evidence in a case that sent an innocent man, Michael Morton, to prison for the murder of his wife. When trying the case as a prosecutor, Anderson possessed evidence that may have cleared Morton, including statements from the crime's only eyewitness that Morton wasn't the culprit. Anderson sat on this evidence, and then watched Morton get convicted. While Morton remained in prison for the next 25 years, Anderson's career flourished, and he eventually became a judge.

In today's deal, Anderson pled to criminal contempt, and will have to give up his law license, perform 500 hours of community service, and spend 10 days in jail. Anderson had already resigned in September from his position on the Texas bench.

What makes today's plea newsworthy is not that Anderson engaged in misconduct that sent an innocent man to prison. Indeed, while most prosecutors and police officers are ethical and take their constitutional obligations seriously, government misconduct--including disclosure breaches known as Brady violations--occurs so frequently that it has become one of the chief causes of wrongful conviction.

What's newsworthy and novel about today's plea is that a prosecutor was actually punished in a meaningful way for his transgressions.

Meaningful? Not really. I don't think that 10 days in prison, 500 hours of community service or the loss of a law license can ever make up for the quarter of a century an innocent men lost while languishing in jail. But it's something.

This needs to happen more often.

The rest of the story.

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