A rare Texas legal proceeding called a “Court of Inquiry” began this morning to consider whether a former Texas prosecutor should face criminal charges for his involvement in the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton, who served 25 years behind bars for the murder of his wife, Christine. The Innocence Project helped clear Morton through DNA testing, which proved his innocence and implicated another man.
Judge Ken Anderson, who was the district attorney prosecuting Michael Morton in 1987, is accused of concealing several pieces of evidence pointing to Morton’s innocence during and after the trial. He has denied any wrongdoing in the prosecution of the case.
Tarrant County Judge Louis Sturns will hear evidence and then issue a ruling or take the matter under advisement. If he determines that Anderson acted unlawfully while prosecuting Morton, he will have to issue an arrest warrant charging Anderson, said the Austin American-Statesman.
Morton always maintained his innocence of the murder of his wife, who was found dead in their home by a neighbor the morning of August 13, 1986. At trial, the prosecution argued that Morton beat his wife to death after she refused to have sex with him upon returning from his 32nd birthday celebration at a restaurant. There were no witnesses or physical evidence linking Morton to the crime.
lists the following as the hidden evidence:
- Two transcripts of a police interview with Christine Morton’s mother, Rita Kirkpatrick, who revealed that the Mortons’ 3-year-old son Eric witnessed the murder and said Michael Morton wasn’t home at the time. One transcript was found in sheriff’s department files, and a shorter version was discovered in Anderson’s trial file.
- A police report about suspicious behavior by an unidentified driver of a green van who, a neighbor said, on several occasions parked and walked into the wooded area behind the Morton house. A copy of the report also was found in Anderson’s trial file.
- A note to Sgt. Don Wood, the sheriff’s lead investigator, indicating that Christine Morton’s credit card might have been used in San Antonio two days after her death.
- A police report saying a $20 check made out to Christine Morton had been cashed a week after her death. This report has since been revealed to be innocuous; bank records showed it was Michael Morton who cashed the check. Morton recently said he didn’t remember doing so.
Read more about Morton in his
Sunday’s New York Times
Follow Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck on Twitter
live from the courtroom.
Austin American-Statesman staff writer Chuck Lindell
is also in the courtroom providing live updates on Twitter.