As a lifelong prosecutor and judge, Ken Anderson must now defend himself like a defendant does in a criminal case.
A Tuesday hearing in Georgetown set in motion the Dec. 10 court of inquiry, where an appointed judge will hear a case with 13,000 pages of evidence to decide if the former Williamson County district attorney cheated a man out of a fair trial.
Michael Morton spent almost a quarter-of-a-century behind bars for the murder of his wife Christine Morton — a crime which DNA evidence later proved he did not commit.
The court of inquiry will serve as a fact-finding mission to determine if Anderson violated courtroom procedures more than 20 years ago. Anderson faces formal allegations of contempt of court, tampering with evidence and tampering with government records.
In court Tuesday, Anderson attorneys asked visiting Tarrant County District Judge Louis Sturns to eliminate the attorney-client privilege for Morton’s attorneys. Anderson’s counsel believes they have evidence that could show their client did not violate any procedural rules during the original trial.
Anderson attorney Eric Nichols says during the 1987 trial, a court order did not exist that required the prosecutor to turn over to the court for in-camera inspection all of the reports that were generated by Sgt. Don Wood, who investigated Christine Morton’s murder.
"The issue of whether or not there was a court order of the type that has been alleged in this case is a central issue in this matter," Nichols said.
Specifically, Anderson faces allegations of knowingly withholding the following evidence:
1. A memo to acting sheriff and chief investigator on the case, Don Wood, which described a telephone tip that a bank check made payable to Christine Morton was cashed nine days after her murder.
2. A phone message to Wood that said a credit card belonging to Christine Morton was located at a San Antonio store.
3. A report from the sheriff's deputy which described testimony from neighbors that a man in a green van was seen parked in the street behind the Morton residence several times before the murder.
4. A transcript of a taped interview between Christine Morton's mother, Rita Kirkpatrick, and the Morton's 3-year-old son. The toddler told his grandmother he witnessed the crime, and blatantly stated his "father was not home at the time of the murder," according to the petition.
5. A report by Wood written days after the murder, which detailed the aforementioned transcript. Also, during a pre-trial hearing, Anderson told the court he had "no evidence favorable to the accused."
Houston attorney John Raley discovered this buried evidence sifting through seemingly never-ending court records, hoping to prove Michael Morton's innocence.
Come December, if Judge Sturns finds Anderson violated courtroom procedures, he then could face formal criminal charges.
On a separate matter, the State Bar of Texas has also filed allegations against Anderson in the Morton case. If the state bar deems the allegations true, Anderson could lose his license to practice law later down the line.