Michael Morton was sent to prison for a murder he didn’t commit. He was charged with killing his wife and served 25 years before being exonerated and released. Morton’s defense attorneys have reason to believe the prosecutor in the case had knowledge of Morton’s innocence, knowledge he didn’t disclose. Now, the prosecutor, Ken Anderson, is under a microscope as the defense lawyers dig into court records and files in an effort to uncover the truth.
It’s not often, perhaps never, that defense lawyers investigate a prosecutor. However, Morton’s legal team was given this chance by Judge Sid Harle, who took over the case in August. It’s believed when all is said and done, the defense team will ask Harle to take some sort of action against Anderson, though what that action is isn’t known yet.
Several states have innocence commissions in place to investigate and prevent wrongful convictions. These are the bodies that would normally handle the investigation into any missteps by the prosecution in such an exoneration case. But Bennett Gershman, a professor at Pace University, says that this is the first time that he knows of an investigation being led by defense lawyers.
Morton had some pretty high profile defense lawyers on his side, Barry Scheck and Nina Morrison with the Innocence Project of New York, and Gerry Goldstein from San Antonio, just to name a few.
According to the Statesman, the defense team has been “admittedly making the rules as they go.” The team was granted the ability to conduct “limited discovery” by the current district attorney, John Bradley. Using that power more commonly seen in civil cases, the lawyers subpoenaed testimony from Anderson, Mike Davis (who assisted as an ADA on Morton’s case), and Don Wood, the retired sheriff’s deputy who was involved in the murder investigation.
Morton’s team is expected to go before judge Harle next Monday and reveal what exactly it is that they’ve found. There are indications that Anderson had evidence that was “favorable” to Morton’s case and neglected to divulge this evidence early on in the case. Disclosing such evidence is required by law.
In specific, there are four pieces of evidence that Morton’s lawyers believe Anderson knew about and withheld:
- A report that Morton’s wife’s credit cards were used in San Antonio 2 days after her death (pointing to a robbery motive),
- Indications that a check made out to Christine Morton was cashed 9 days after she was killed,
- A police report indicating there had been a suspicious van in the neighborhood whose driver had walked up behind the Morton house on “several occasions,” and
- “The transcript of a police interview with Christine Morton’s mother…who revealed that the Mortons’ 3 –year-old son witnessed the murder and said Michael Morton was not home at the time.”
What Judge Harle does with this information remains to be seen.
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