September 24, 2013
By Chuck Lindell
State District Judge Ken Anderson, who prosecuted Michael Morton in 1987 as William County’s longtime district attorney, has resigned from office.
In a letter to Gov. Rick Perry dated Monday, Anderson gave no reason for submitting his resignation.
In a return letter dated Tuesday, Perry extended his thanks for Anderson’s service. “I wish you all the best in your future endeavors,” Perry wrote.
His four-year term was due to expire at the end of 2014.
Anderson faces criminal charges linked to allegations that he intentionally hid evidence that could have spared Morton from a life sentence for murder. Morton was freed in 2011 after almost 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife, Christine, which evidence later showed he didn’t commit.
Anderson also faces a civil court trial, set to begin Sept. 30, on a lawsuit filed by the State Bar of Texas that accuses him of professional misconduct in his prosecution of Morton.
Once synonymous with Williamson County’s tough-on-crime image, Anderson was a politically astute, award-winning district attorney for 16 years. Praised as a tenacious advocate for child victims, he was a sought-after speaker and the co-author of several legal reference books. When Perry needed to fill a state district court vacancy, Anderson was the natural choice, taking office in 2002.
Anderson’s legacy was shaken when Morton’s conviction unraveled in the summer and fall of 2011.
Most damaging was the discovery, in Anderson’s trial file on the Morton case, of a police interview transcript showing that the Mortons’ 3-year-old son witnessed his mother’s murder and said Michael Morton was not home at the time. Another police report mentioned the driver of a green van who aroused a neighbor’s suspicion by walking into the wooded area behind the Morton home on several occasions.
Both pieces of evidence bolstered the defense theory that an unknown intruder killed Christine Morton.
Morton’s lawyers testified under oath that Anderson had not provided that information despite his legal requirement to do so. Anderson testified that he did not recall the particulars of the case but insisted that he would have discussed the information with defense lawyers because that was his standard procedure as district attorney.
In a statement released by his lawyers, Anderson said he will focus on making the transition into private life.
“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. “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.”
Morton’s lawyers, John Raley of Houston and Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project in New York, also released a joint statement.
“Judge Ken Anderson’s resignation is long overdue, and we have little doubt that the voters would not have re-elected him in next year’s contest,” Raley and Scheck said. “He still admits no wrongdoing and shows no real remorse, claiming it was ‘the system,’ not Ken Anderson, that failed Michael Morton.”