Despite nearly 100 court rulings across Texas citing prosecutorial misconduct in criminal cases between 2004 and 2008, none of these prosecutors were held accountable.
That may soon change. Ken Anderson, the former Williamson County District Attorney who is now a district judge will face a court of inquiry this fall to determine whether he engaged in misconduct while prosecuting the case of Michael Morton in 1986. Morton spent nearly 25 years behind bars while the prosecutor ignored vital evidence pointing toward innocence. Morton’s case and dozens of others were highlighted at a symposium at the University of Texas School of Law in Austin last week as part of a national tour where panelists discuss policy solutions for preventing misconduct and making prosecutors more accountable. The Austin Chronicle reports:
“This is likely just the tip of the iceberg,” said Emily West, Innocence Project Research Director. Indeed, because 98% of Texas criminal cases are resolved through plea bargain, it is unlikely that we’ll ever know the true extent of the problem – which includes withholding exculpatory or other evidence possibly favorable to a defendant. Of the 91 cases in which the courts agreed there was misconduct, 36 involved “improper” arguments during trial, 35 involved improper questioning of a witness, and eight involved a failure to disclose materials pointing to the defendant’s innocence, known as a Brady violation. That’s exactly what Michael Morton says happened to him.