Former district attorney should face inquiry in Morton prosecution, judge says
By Chuck Lindell
Updated: 10:08 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, 2012
GEORGETOWN — Former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson should face a court of inquiry to examine allegations that he hid evidence that could have spared Michael Morton from a wrongful murder conviction and almost 25 years in prison, a state district judge ruled Friday.
The finding means District Judge Sid Harle found probable cause to believe that Anderson violated state law in his prosecution of Morton.
"I personally cannot imagine, having been a former prosecutor, a worse stain or tarnish on a prosecutor's reputation, integrity or legacy," Harle said.
Morton was freed from prison in October after DNA tests pointed to another man in the murder of his wife in their southwestern Williamson County home.
Last week, a grand jury handed up a capital murder indictment against Mark Alan Norwood, a Bastrop dishwasher, in Christine Morton's 1986 murder.
Norwood also is a suspect in the 1988 murder of Debra Masters Baker, who, like Christine Morton, was beaten to death while lying in bed. Court records show that DNA tests confirmed that a hair found in Baker's North Austin bedroom belonged to Norwood, who has not been charged in her case.
Harle's request for a court of inquiry, an affidavit certifying that he found probable cause that state laws were broken, will be reviewed by Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson.
If Jefferson agrees, he would name a state district judge to oversee the special court, which would have the power to issue subpoenas, take testimony and make a finding about whether Anderson violated state law. Designed as a fact-finding body, the court would not issue a punishment or criminal conviction.
In requesting the court of inquiry, Morton's lawyers accused Anderson of violating two state laws: tampering with physical evidence, a felony that includes concealing "any record or document," and intentionally concealing a government record, a misdemeanor.
According to Morton's lawyers, Anderson did not reveal the entire Wood file to hide the existence of several documents that could have helped Morton's defense, including:
• Two transcripts of a police interview with Christine Morton's mother, Rita Kirkpatrick, who revealed that the Mortons' 3-year-old son witnessed the murder and said Michael Morton was not home at the time.
One transcript was found in Anderson's trial file last summer, and a longer version was discovered in the sheriff's department files in 2008.
• A note to the lead sheriff's investigator indicating that Christine Morton's credit card might have been used in San Antonio two days after her death.
• 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.
Court of inquiry
A fact-finding judicial process to determine if a state law was broken.
Led by an appointed state district judge who can issue subpoenas and question witnesses.
The judge issues findings but cannot levy punishment or criminal convictions.
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