Williamson County State District Judge Ken Anderson formally apologized Wednesday for the “system’s failure” in the wrongful 1987 murder conviction of Michael Morton.
DNA testing recently freed Morton after he spent 24 years in prison for the murder of his wife Christine, who was found bludgeoned to death in her bedroom on Aug. 13, 1986. Some believe Anderson purposefully hid evidence from the defense in order to secure Morton’s conviction.
Anderson, a prosecutor in the case, said Wednesday he “knows in his heart” no wrongdoing occurred during Morton’s original trial. However, the state bar is probing whether or not there was in fact prosecutorial misconduct in the state’s 25-year-old investigation into Christine’s Morton’s murder.
One piece of potential evidence reporters grilled Anderson on during Wednesday’s briefing was a conversation between Morton’s then 3-year-old son with his grandmother, in which the boy said a “monster” who was not his father killed his mother. That information never made it into court.
Anderson maintained both the prosecution and the defense knew about the boy’s testimony, but agreed it would be unfair for such a young child to take the stand.
While he could remember that part of the investigation in particular, Anderson said several times Wednesday he could not remember other specific details about the trial. The district judge believes when his recent depositions from the state bar’s investigation are released, the public will have a better grasp of both sides of the case.
Right now, Anderson said there has only been “an advocate’s version” of the murder investigation made available, referring to the Innocence Project’s work on the case that eventually led to Morton’s freedom.
Houston attorney John Raley was asked by the Innocence Project to examine Morton's case in 2004. Since then, Raley has brought forward mountains of evidence which helped lead to Morton's release.
"We're convinced that if that evidence had not been concealed Michael never would have been convicted," Raley told YNN just days after Morton's release.
The DNA evidence that freed Michael Morton came from a bandana found near the crime scene which matched that of 57-year-old Mark Allan Norwood, who was arrested by Williamson County authorities last week in Bastrop.
Norwood is also a suspect in the 1988 murder of Debra Baker in North Austin, two years after Christine Morton’s death.
When asked if he felt responsible for Baker’s murder, Anderson said, “In terms of the overall case, I’m sick. You know, I was involved in the prosecution. We got it wrong. That’s just something I am going to have to deal with.”
Baker’s daughter Caitlin was at the briefing. She said Anderson skirted away from taking any responsibility for both her mother’s and Morton’s cases.
“I was hoping for an apology, not for us, but for Michael Morton. For all of us really, but it’s harder for me to hear that he’s not holding himself accountable. He’s making a lot of excuses,” she said.
Anderson did say more than once he was “beaten up” about the 24 years Morton spent behind bars, but also said several times that Wednesday’s conference was “not about him.”
“I don’t know how strong I can say this, but if there is anybody who is confused on whether I am beating myself up, about whether I am absolutely sick about this case, because you’re wrong, I am,” he said.
Watch the full press conference in the video below.
YNN: Anderson: ‘We got it wrong’ in Morton case
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