Almost two years after wrongfully-convicted Michael Morton was released from prison, former prosecutor Ken Anderson has resigned as a state district court judge in Williamson County.
Anderson submitted his resignation to Gov. Rick Perry Tuesday. The disgraced elected official was six days away from a civil lawsuit trial filed by the State Bar of Texas.
Williamson County sources tell YNN Anderson is expected to plead guilty to a contempt of court charge and accept 10 days in jail. In the same discussion, the disgraced attorney would voluntarily give up his law license.
In April, a visiting judge appointed by the Supreme Court of Texas ruled there was evidence Anderson broke state law by hiding exculpable evidence which could have shown Morton was not guilty of killing his wife, Christine Morton. District Judge Louis Sturns found Anderson committed criminal contempt of court, tampering with or fabricating evidence, and tampering with a government record in the 1987 murder investigation and subsequent trial of Morton.
Morton--then a 32-year-old Safeway store manager in Georgetown--was tried and convicted under the watch of Anderson, who was Williamson County District Attorney at the time. He was sentenced to life in prison for the bludgeoning death of his wife Christine in August 1986. In 2011, newly tested DNA evidence linked the crime to another man, leading to the exoneration of Morton after more than two decades.
The Supreme Court of Texas ordered an investigation of the Morton case in the way of a rarely used Court of Inquiry. Sturns found probable cause that Anderson intentionally withheld two key pieces of evidence from the 1987 Morton defense.
Under what’s known as Brady law, prosecutors are responsible for handing over all evidence favorable to a defendant.
Anderson was set to take on his next legal hurdle Monday, when his civil jury trial is set to begin in the same courthouse he once presided.
The State Bar of Texas' Commission for Lawyer Discipline will argue Anderson violated courtroom rules and committed professional misconduct in the Morton case.
Barry Scheck, the director of the Innocence Project, and John Raley, a Houston attorney asked by the Innocence Project to take the lead on Morton's case, issued the following joint statement on Tuesday afternoon.
"Judge Ken Anderson’s resignation is long overdue, and we have little doubt that the voters would not have reelected him in next year’s contest. He still admits no wrongdoing and shows no real remorse, claiming it was “the system,” not Ken Anderson, that failed Michael Morton. We look forward to an adjudication of the pending disciplinary action brought by the state bar as well as the pending criminal charges. Judge Anderson deserves a fair trial, but if there are findings against him in either proceeding, we would expect that appropriate penalties be imposed,” they said.
During a court hearing in August, Anderson’s lawyer Eric Nichols told YNN his client was an innocent man and never knowingly withheld the evidence or concealed it for the decades Morton was in prison.
Anderson's resignation is effective immediately.
"I have spent the past 28 years as an elected official. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience as Williamson County has transitioned from a sleepy rural county to the dynamic county it is today," Anderson said Tuesday in a statement issued by his attorney. "I greatly appreciate the support I have received from the public, the Bar, the law enforcement community, judiciary, and other public officials. There comes a time when every public official must decide that it is time to leave public life. For me and my family, that time is now. For the foreseeable future I will be focused solely on making the transition into private life. As I begin this transition, I want to thank everyone who has worked so hard to make our community the great place it is to live, work, and raise a family."