For Michael Morton, a man who spent almost 25 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, last Friday turned out to be what he called “a good day.”
It was on that day Morton returned to a Williamson County courtroom and watched the former judge of the court, who had been the prosecutor responsible for his wrongful conviction, sentenced to time in jail.
In an ironic twist of fate, former district attorney and judge Ken Anderson, 61, had to stand before the bar of justice and be punished for his disgraceful actions that led to an innocent man being sent to prison.
And although his plea of “no contest” was for the lesser charge of contempt of court, and his jail sentence was for only 10 days, the fact that Anderson was brought up on charges at all and found guilty for his prosecutorial misconduct was a mighty blow for justice.
Morton was charged with murdering his wife, but a special court of inquiry this year found that Anderson withheld evidence that could have cleared him, and that he tampered with evidence and government records.
Exonerated and freed in 2011, Morton earlier this year attended the trial of the man who did kill his wife and saw him sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Anderson, who was appointed to the bench by Gov. Rick Perry in 2002, resigned in September. In addition to the jail time, he also will be disbarred and required to serve 500 hours of community service.
While some will view what’s happened to the former prosecutor as only a modicum of the justice he deserves, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that his case brought to light a major flaw in the system with the future potential for greater impact.
This year the Legislature passed the Michael Morton Act, requiring prosecutors to share files with defense attorneys.
Last week the Innocence Project announced that there will be an audit of cases prosecuted by Anderson to determine if there are other examples of hidden evidence.
Because of these actions, and others, there are better days ahead for the Texas criminal justice system.