Allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in a 1987 Williamson County murder trial have sparked an investigation by the Texas Bar Association, and are causing others in the legal community to raise questions about courtroom ethics.
Travis County attorney Amber Vazquez Bode praises the moral code of some in her neighboring jurisdiction, but questions practices and procedures that affect whether some evidence ever makes it to court.
"I have a duty to enforce the constitution and seek justice," she said. "There, I think, are some honorable people and some really good prosecutors that I have worked with there (in Williamson County).”
In a theft case involving one of her clients, Vazquez Bode says evidence was emailed to District Attorney John Bradley’s office three days before the end of the trial, and was not ever presented to the court.
“They only give us the evidence that they hand us, we're not given the file and copied it. In fact, we're not allowed any copies of anything," she said.
In fact, when Vazquez Bode found out the evidence existed, she questioned prosecuting attorney Tommy Coleman. In the motion for a new trial, Coleman replied, "it's too late now, your guy already pled.”
"You can't stack the deck, and you can't hold back evidence, and those are fundamental principles that have to be adhered to," Vazquez Bode said.
Williamson County District Judge Ken Anderson and Round Rock attorney Mike Davis are accused of just that--holding back evidence. In 1987, they prosecuted Michael Morton, and after decades of fighting for truth, Morton's attorney finally convinced the judicial system he was wrongfully convicted.
Now, Anderson and Davis have been ordered by an outside judge to tell the truth of how crucial evidence never made it in front of Morton's jury.
Round Rock attorney Scott Magee practices law in Williamson County. He said regardless who delivered injustice to Morton, justice must be served. He was in the courtroom when Morton was released.
"I looked in the eyes of his mother, I looked in the eyes of his father, I looked into his eyes,” Magee said. “I think at the very least we owe them as a county, we owe them as a state, an explanation of what happened to those 25 years of his life."
There is no guarantee the public will ever know why evidence was buried by Anderson and Davis nearly 27 years ago, because the investigations being undertaken by the state bar can be kept private. For attorneys who practice there, however, there are questions of cheating in the tough-on-crime county.
District attorney Bradley tells YNN it was a policy decision that kept the emailed evidence out of the trial described by attorney Vazquez Bode. A judge later ruled that a new trial was not needed.
YNN has made repeated calls to attorneys representing Ken Anderson and Mike Davis, in hopes of hearing their side of the Morton story. At the time of this article's publication, no calls have been returned.