A group of Texas attorneys has filed grievances against current and past Williamson County officials for their roles in the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of Michael Morton.
The Texas Coalition for Lawyer Accountability wants the State Bar of Texas to take disciplinary action against former prosecutors Ken Anderson and Mike Davis, and current Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley.
Anderson was District Attorney and lead prosector, and Davis was an assistant prosecutor, when Morton was wrongfully convicted of the 1986 murder of his wife Christine.
Bradley did not participate in the Morton trial, but beginning in 2005 he placed legal roadblocks to prevent the DNA testing of evidence from the Morton crime scene. Defense attorneys believe he could have helped secure Morton a speedier release from prison.
As a result of his 1987 conviction Morton spent nearly a quarter century behind bars, before that disputed DNA evidence freed him this year.
For his involvement in Morton's wrongful prosecution Anderson was compelled under court order to answers questions from attorneys during two 12 hour meetings.
It was expected that the transcript of that deposition would be released on Monday. It was not, but may be released later this week.
Anderson is now a district judge in Williamson County.
Morton's attorneys accuse Anderson and others of hiding evidence from the defense during the trial, evidence the defense believes would have shown Morton was not the killer.
On Monday the executive director of the Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability (TCLA) filed separate grievances on Anderson, Davis as and Bradley.
Speaking to YNN's John Salazar District Attorney Bradley said, "I acted professionally at all times while litigating the current issues. I agreed to Mr. Morton's release from prison and cooperated in the investigation of the prosecutors who did try the case."
TCLA records filed with the State Bar on Monday list at least a dozen professional conduct violations, including committing criminal acts, by knowingly hiding evidence during Morton's trial.
Julie Oliver, the executive director of the coalition says “It shall be the primary duty of all prosecuting attorneys, including any special prosecutors, not to convict, but to see that justice is done.”
Just two weeks ago, Judge Anderson apologized for Morton’s wrongful conviction. He said the criminal justice system failed, but that he acted within the law during the trial.
Court-ordered DNA evidence cleared Morton and he was freed on Oct. 4. A month later police arrested another man, 57-year-old Mark Alan Norwood, for the murder.
Anderson, Davis, and Bradley now have 30 days to answer to the grievances filed with the State Bar.
A spokesperson with the Bar Association tells YNN that all complaints filed are handled privately.
The transcript from former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson's deposition has been delayed again. It will now be released either Tuesday or Wednesday, instead of Monday as originally scheduled.
In the document, Anderson answers questions about the Michael Morton case. Anderson, now a district judge in Williamson County, was the lead prosecutor in the 1987 trial that wrongly convicted Morton of his wife's murder, and sent him to prison for 24 years.
Morton's attorneys maintain Anderson and others hid evidence from the defense at trial that would have poked holes in their prosecution.
Nearly two weeks ago, Anderson apologized for Morton’s wrongful conviction. He said the criminal justice system failed, but said he acted within the law during the trial.
DNA evidence cleared Morton and he was freed on Oct. 4. Police then arrested another man, 57-year-old Mark Alan Norwood, for the murder a month later.
Monday, members of the Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability announced they have filed disciplinary grievances against the prosecutors who helped wrongly convict Morton.
They include Anderson, current Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, and former prosecutor Mike Davis.
The suit claims the three lawmen may have violated Texas ethics rules. Read the box below for TCLA's statement on the case.
Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability Files Grievances Against The Michael Morton Case Prosecutors
The Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability (TCLA) announced that its Executive Director, Julie Oliver, is today filing disciplinary grievances against prosecutors in the Michael Morton case: current Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley; former Williamson County District Attorney (and current District Judge) Ken Anderson; former Williamson County Assistant District Attorney Mike Davis.
Published reports indicate that those lawyers may have violated several of the ethics rules that govern Texas lawyers. The apparent violations had tragic, horrific consequences—including the wrongful imprisonment of Michael Morton for 25 years, and the undermining of public confidence and trust in the criminal justice system in Williamson County.
Collectively, Anderson, Bradley, and Davis appear to have violated one or more of the following ethical standards governing the conduct of Texas lawyers (the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct).
In 1987, a jury convicted Michael Morton of murdering his wife, Christine. Morton was sentenced to life in prison. After serving almost 25 years in prison for a murder that he did not commit, Mr. Morton was released in October 2011 after DNA testing exonerated him. Published reports suggest that the Morton prosecution team withheld key evidence from the defense during the murder trial, misrepresented the testimony of certain key witnesses during closing arguments, and failed to comply with a court order.
All of these actions likely caused Mr. Morton’s wrongful conviction—and kept the true murderer on the street.
“What is clear is that the prosecution in the Morton case dramatically failed to meet the burden imposed by court rules, statutes, and the Constitution, to disclose evidence tending to negate guilt,” said Julie Oliver, Executive Director, Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability. “In Texas, for far too long disciplinary enforcement against prosecutors who engage in unethical conduct has been lax or non-existent.”
Article 2.01 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure best states the critical message of this case: “It shall be the primary duty of all prosecuting attorneys, including any special prosecutors, not to convict, but to see that justice is done.” This disciplinary case, if investigated thoroughly and prosecuted vigorously, can help make that critically important ethical rule a functional reality in our criminal justice system. Justice in Texas requires no less.
“We are filing these grievances today so that public scrutiny of the investigation will be assured, vigorous, and ongoing,” said Julie Oliver. “Effective lawyer discipline requires such public vigilance and involvement.”