Judicial System Failed Morton

 

http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2011-11-18/morton-prosecutor-wrote-the-book-on-crime/

Morton Prosecutor Wrote the Book on Crime

According to Williamson County
277th Dis­trict Court Judge Ken Anderson, who prior to 2002 spent
16½ years as district attorney, having the “right people” working in
law enforcement – police and prosecutors – is crucial. “We all have a
stake in having the right people in these jobs,” Anderson wrote in his
1997 book, Crime in Texas: Your Complete Guide to the Criminal Justice
System
. He also wrote: “Our government’s first obligation is the
protection of its citizens. As a society, we don’t need to accept locked doors,
burglar alarms, and fear as inevitable. We need to demand from our legislators,
judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials a system that first and
foremost keeps us safe.”

At issue now is whether Anderson
has lived up to his words – most specifically, whether he was the
“right” person to serve as district attorney and prosecutor of Michael
Morton
, who was recently released from prison after DNA testing
demonstrated that he was not responsible for murdering his wife, Christine,
in Georgetown in 1986. Anderson may have played a lead role in not only
violating the public trust but also in making Central Texas a more dangerous
place by deliberately hiding evidence from Morton’s defense. The evidence could
have demonstrated 25 years ago that someone else was responsible for
Christine’s murder – and likely responsible for at least one other murder, that
of Austin mother Debra Masters Baker, who was killed in her home a
year and a half after the Morton murder.

 

That Michael Morton did not kill
his wife is certain. Prosecuted by Anderson and sentenced to life in prison in
1987, Morton was finally freed last month and declared innocent by the courts.
After years of refusal by Anderson’s successor, D.A. John Bradley,
to allow DNA testing on a bloody bandana found right after the murder near the
Mor­ton home where Christine was bludgeoned to death in her bed, the tests, finally
court-ordered, revealed her DNA mingled with that of a then-unknown male.

That man, 57-year-old Mark
Alan Nor­wood
, was arrested in Bastrop on Nov. 9 and has been charged with
the capital murder of Christine Morton. Additional analysis has also matched
Norwood’s DNA profile to a hair found at the Baker crime scene, where the young
mother was found bludgeoned to death in 1988 in her North Austin home. Norwood
had moved to Austin’s Crestview neighborhood in 1985, just blocks from the
Baker home.

How it happened that police and
prosecutors focused so exclusively on Morton for his wife’s murder is the
subject of an ongoing investigation under the oversight of Judge Sid
Harle
. So far, lawyers for Morton have deposed three key witnesses: Ander­son;
his second chair for the prosecution, Mike Davis (now a
defense attorney); and former Williamson County Sheriff’s Sgt. Don Wood,
lead investigator on the Morton murder. Copies of the Anderson and Wood
depositions have not been publicly released, but according to a transcript of
the Davis deposition, it appears Anderson played a key role in driving the
investigation toward Morton. He was perhaps also responsible for failing to
release to Morton’s defense key pieces of information that would have cast
serious doubt on the state’s case.

 

Among that evidence is a
transcript of a conversation between Morton’s son Eric and his grandmother that
occurred 11 days after the murder. According to Eric, then 3 years old, his
father was not home when the “monster” killed his mother. He
recounted key details, including that the man – “a monster with a big
moustache,” as his grandmother, Rita Kirkpatrick, told Wood –
had used a piece of wood to bludgeon Christine and that he threw a blue
suitcase on her body. His father, Eric told Kirkpat­rick, was not home at the
time of the crime. Moreover, a check sent to Christine by a relative was cashed
days after the murder, endorsed by someone other than Christine, and just two
days after the murder, someone in San Antonio reported that a woman had tried
to use Morton’s credit card.

 

Davis told Gerald
Goldstein
, one of Morton’s lawyers, that he wasn’t aware of any of those
details – and that he was troubled to learn only recently that the evidence
existed before Morton was tried. It appears that the transcript (according to a
notation at the bottom) was provided to the D.A. by Wood, and Davis said he
believes Anderson had “an affirmative duty” to release the
exculpatory information to Morton’s defense. Davis also described Anderson as a
man who tightly controlled every aspect of the Morton prosecution.

It’s not surprising then that
Anderson, in Crime in Texas, writes that the theory of the Morton
crime was his: “The defendant and his wife had celebrated his birthday the
night before at the City Grill,” he wrote. “My theory of the crime
was that after returning home, he wanted to have sex. When she said no, he
savagely beat her to death.” The “critical” proof of that, he
writes, is that food was found in her stomach that matched food the couple had
eaten the night before (that is, not yet digested  at the time of her
death). That was enough for Anderson – regardless of other evidence pointing
toward someone from outside the home.

In his deposition, Davis said he
went to Anderson’s office recently, after learning about Eric’s statements, to
ask if the information had been turned over to Morton’s team in 1987. “And
so I went to Judge Anderson’s office and asked him, ‘Were you aware of
that?'” Davis recalled. “And he says, ‘We turned it over.'”

“That’s what you were
concerned about. That’s what you were asking him about,” Goldstein
replied.

“Yeah, because that would
just be horrible if that didn’t happen.”

Under further questioning, Davis
said Anderson either “implied or he stated” that the information was
turned over. Goldstein asked him which it was. “The first thing [Anderson]
said was, ‘Did you try this case with me?'” Davis responded. “So he
didn’t even remember at that time. The second thing was, ‘Well, I’ll just blame
it all on you.’ But he laughed when he said that, so I hope that wasn’t
correct.”

“Do you have any confidence
that he won’t?” Goldstein asked.

“I don’t know,” Davis
responded. “I – no, I don’t know.”

Whether Anderson deliberately
failed to turn over the evidence is now also the subject of a Texas Bar
investigation. Intentional or not, the failure to follow the obvious leads in
the case has had serious impact. Not only did Morton spend 25 years behind
bars, but at least one other person, Baker, lost her life in a crime that
possibly could have been avoided. At first Austin police focused on Baker’s
husband, but after they cleared him, the case went cold. Now with the new DNA
evidence link to Norwood, the investigation has been reinvigorated; an official
Austin Police Department statement says the department is aware of the Norwood
arrest and is “committed to a thorough investigation” of the Baker
murder.

Norwood has lived in at least
three states besides Texas and trails a rap sheet behind him from each –
including counts of drug possession, aggravated assault, and arson, reported
YNN. Whether he has also left a trail that links him to any other unsolved
murders is unclear.

http://austin.ynn.com/content/headlines/281510/anderson—we-got-it-wrong–in-morton-case

Anderson: ‘We got it wrong’ in
Morton case

By: Anne Szilagyi & John
A. Salazar

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 said.

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 potential
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.

http://www.statesman.com/news/local/former-prosecutor-apologizes-to-wrongfully-convicted-man-1974368.html

Former prosecutor apologizes to
wrongfully convicted man

GEORGETOWN — Six weeks after Michael Morton was freed from
prison after serving almost 25 years for a murder he did not commit, the former
prosecutor who secured that guilty verdict offered an apology Wednesday.

Ken Anderson, now a district judge
in Georgetown, called the verdict a failure of the criminal justice system but
insisted that he acted properly in the Morton case.

“As woefully inadequate as I
realize it is, I want to formally apologize for the system’s failure to Mr.
Morton and every other person who was affected by the verdict,” Anderson
said at a news conference on the steps of the Williamson County Courthouse,
where he spoke to a dozen news cameras and twice as many reporters.

Anderson also denied allegations,
made by Morton’s lawyers, that he deliberately hid evidence favorable to
Morton’s defense before the 1987 trial.

“In my heart, I know there
was no misconduct of any sort,” he said. “The jury’s verdict was
based on the evidence as we knew it at the time. DNA testing was not available
then. It is now. In hindsight, the verdict was wrong.”

Morton was freed Oct. 4 after DNA
tests linked another man, Mark Norwood, to the murder of his wife in their
Williamson County home.

Norwood, a Bastrop dishwasher who
lived in Austin in the mid-1980s, was charged last week in the 1986 murder of
Christine Morton. He also is a suspect in the 1988 murder of Debra Baker in her
Austin home. Both women were beaten to death in their beds.

“If there’s anybody who’s
confused about whether I’m beating myself up and about whether I’m absolutely
sick about this case, you’re wrong, because I am,” Anderson said. “I
was involved in a prosecution, we got it wrong. That’s something I’m just going
to have to deal with.”

Baker’s daughter, Caitlin Baker,
attended Anderson’s news conference and said she was unmoved by the judge’s
apology.

“It’s harder for me to hear
him not holding himself accountable. He’s not taking responsibility,”
Baker said.

Baker said she held Anderson
partially responsible for her mother’s death because he and investigators
allowed a killer to escape detection by focusing so intently on Morton.

“My mother could be alive
right now,” she said, adding that Anderson’s handling of the case shows
that he is unfit for a job in the justice system. “If (Anderson) feels
bad, prove it — resign,” she said.

Anderson’s term as district judge
ends in 2014, but he declined to discuss his career plans.

Anderson had declined to discuss
the mistaken conviction before Wednesday. He said he broke his silence because
Morton’s legal case recently concluded. “I didn’t feel it was appropriate
to comment about this case when it was pending before other district
judges,” he said.

Anderson said he has not
apologized directly to Morton.

There was a chance on Oct. 31,
when Anderson sat down for the first of two days of depositions in which he
answered questions, under oath, from Morton’s lawyers. Morton attended the
deposition, but the time wasn’t right, Anderson said.

“I wanted to talk to him. I
think he wanted to talk to me. There were a lot of lawyers in the room. At this
point, I think we got too many lawyers involved to do things like that,”
Anderson said.

Morton did pass a note that
Anderson said he would keep private, other than to say that Morton’s words were
“kind and gracious.”

Anderson was asked repeatedly
about accusations that he improperly withheld favorable evidence from Morton’s
lawyers before his trial — particularly the transcript of a police interview in
which it was clear that the Mortons’ 3-year-old son witnessed his mother’s
murder and said his father was not home at the time.

Morton’s lawyers did not learn of
the transcript until 2008.

Anderson said that while he could
not recall specifics of the Morton case, he reviewed trial records and case
files and concluded that prosecutors complied with disclosure laws as they
existed in 1987.

Anderson also said he could not
discuss other disputed aspects of the Morton case, including whether he knew
about reports that Christine Morton’s credit card may have been used in San
Antonio several days after her death.

“I literally have no ability
to recall what happened, what I was thinking, why I made decisions in a trial
25 years ago,” he said.

On other questions about evidence,
Anderson referred reporters to his 12-hour deposition for details. Transcripts
of the deposition are expected to be released next week.

Anderson also welcomed an
investigation by the State Bar of Texas, which oversees lawyer discipline.
Lawyers for the bar are examining actions taken in the Morton trial by Anderson
and former Assistant District Attorney Mike Davis, now a Round Rock lawyer.

Anderson said he was confident the
bar would conclude that he did nothing wrong.

http://www.kvue.com/news/District-Attorney-in-the-Michael-Morton-case-apologizes-for-wrongful-conviction-134008518.html

DA in the Michael Morton case
apologizes for wrongful conviction

GEORGETOWN — The man who
prosecuted Michael Morton apologized Wednesday. However, the daughter of
another murder victim isn’t buying it 25 years after the fact.

Caitlin Baker’s mother, Debra, was
murdered in 1988, two years after Christine Morton was killed in her bedroom.
Baker says if the District Attorney at the time, Ken Anderson, had prosecuted
the right man, perhaps her mother would still be alive. That’s why she wasn’t
moved by Anderson’s apology.

Now a District Judge, Anderson
walked down the steps of the old Williamson County courthouse Wednesday. It is
the same courthouse where, as District Attorney in 1986,  he
prosecuted Michael Morton for the murder of his wife Christine.

“In terms of the overall case
I am sick,” said Anderson. “I was involved in a prosecution. We got
it wrong. That is something I am just going to have to deal with.”

After 25 years in prison, Morton
was freed when DNA evidence linked Mark Norwood of Bastrop County to the crime.
Norwood has since been arrested and charged with the murder of Christine
Morton.

“What happened should not
have happened,” said Anderson. “It is inconceivable that this
happened. I really do want to apologize to him and to everyone else that this
affected. The system failed and it should not have failed.”

Anderson steadfastly denied
allegations of any professional misconduct involving him or any of the
prosecutors in his office during the Morton case. The allegations include
concealing key evidence that could have helped to prove Morton’s
innocence.

“I am sorry,” said
Anderson. “The deposition does not say that.”

“It does say that in several
places,” said Caitlin Baker. “I wanted him to see me. Never once did
he make eye contact with me, but I wanted him to know that I was here.”

Baker’s mother Debra was murdered
two years after Morton. Austin police say Norwood is now a suspect in the Baker
case. KVUE asked Baker if she believes Anderson is ultimately responsible for
her mother’s murder.

“He let Norwood go,”
Baker said.  “He did not get him when he should have. My mother could
be alive right now if he had gotten the right guy. If he had not gone after
Michael Morton we could be a totally different life right now. I could have my
mother. I absolutely think he is partly responsible. He did not actually do it,
but he did not do his job.”

Baker says if Anderson is
genuinely sorry about what happened during the Morton case, he should step down
as District Judge. Anderson says he has no plans to resign.

http://www.ketknbc.com/news/former-prosecutor-apolgizes-for-system-failure

Former prosecutor apolgizes for
system failure

Austin
— The Associated Press is
reporting; a former prosecutor is apologizing for the system’s failure in
the case of a man who served 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

Former District Attorney Ken
Anderson says he does not believe he acted improperly in prosecuting Michael
Morton for his wife’s murder.

Morton was freed from prison
recently based on new DNA evidence, and his conviction has been overturned by
the courts. Morton’s attorneys say Anderson concealed key evidence from the
defense that could have changed the outcome of the trial.

Anderson says he hopes and prays
that Morton “will be able to move forward with his life after these
incredibly tragic events.” Authorities arrested another man in the 1986
murder of Christine Morton.

Fair Judges – An Outanding Issue – It Remains In Both the Al-Nashiri and Hasan Cases

As earlier posts have demonstrated, the issue of whether a fair and impartial military judge can be fond in the US Army remains an outstanding issue.  The trial defense counsel in the Al-Nashiri case at Gitmo have aggressively taken issue with the impartiality of Colonel Pohl, the detailed military judge in the military commisisoner case   See other posts regarding this same issue.

As readers know, Colonel Pohl is the same US Army officer previously served as the Article 32 Investigating Officer in the Hasan case at Fort Hood.  The circumstances associated with his appointment to service as the Article 3 IO remains an outstanding issue.  In a more immediate sense, however, we should be concerned about what, if any, conversations may have taken place between Judges Gross and Pohl.

Of course, the resolution of whether Colonel Gross should recuse himself n the Hasan case at Fort Hood remains an open issue.  Proceedings to date have left resolution of this important issue unclear.   It is anticipated this critical issue will be addressed in subsequent pretrial hearing….. so stay tuned.