Jail Time May Be the Least of Ken Anderson’s Problems

What will an independent audit of Anderson’s old criminal cases turn up?

By Comments

Ken Anderson agreed to give up his law license and serve ten days in jail for hiding favorable evidence to secure Morton's 1987 conviction for a murder he did not commit.
AP Photo | Austin American-Statesman, Rodolfo Gonzalez

The news last Friday that former Williamson County district judge Ken Anderson would have to serve jail time and forfeit his law license for withholding exculpatory evidence in the Michael Morton case was initially heralded as historic and unprecedented.

Anderson, who prosecuted Morton in 1987 for the murder of his wife, Christine, had long insisted that he had committed no wrongdoing, even after Morton was exonerated in 2011 by DNA evidence. But last week he finally capitulated, pleading no contest to felony charges of criminal contempt of court. The New York Times opined that Anderson’s ten-day jail sentence was “insultingly short” in comparison to the nearly 25 years that Morton spent behind bars, but added that “because prosecutors are so rarely held accountable for their misconduct, the sentence is remarkable nonetheless.” Mark Godsey, the director of the Ohio Innocence Project, took to the Huffington Post to declare that this marked “the first time ever” that a prosecutor had been sent to jail for withholding evidence. “What’s newsworthy and novel,” Godsey wrote, “is that a prosecutor was actually punished in a meaningful way for his transgressions.”

But as the news of Anderson’s plea deal spread on social media and throughout the blogosphere, the overwhelming consensus seemed to be that Anderson had gotten off easy. A Wonkette headline succinctly summed up the public’s reaction: “Good News: Prosecutor Does Time For Misconduct! Bad News: 10 Days When Victim Rotted For 25 Years!” The Austin-based criminal justice blog Grits for Breakfast dubbed Anderson’s punishment “tepid justice,” noting that though Anderson had to forfeit his law license, his career had hardly been cut short; he had practiced law for more than three decades, first as a prosecutor and later as a district judge, and will, despite a felony conviction, retain his judicial pension. “A prosecutor going to jail for Brady violations may be a first, but compared to what Morton faced, it’s hard to say with a straight face that Anderson [was adequately punished],” wrote Grits’s editor, Scott Henson.

Defense attorneys also voiced their disappointment and their belief that Anderson’s relatively paltry punishment would never serve as a deterrent. Scott Greenfield argued on his blog Simple Justice that Anderson’s punishment was “an outlier” and that real change would not occur “until ten line prosecutors a year face consequences for Brady concealment.” Houston defense lawyer Robert Fickman took an even more cynical view. “No DA will be deterred by this ten-day sentence,” he wrote on the blog Defending People. “Hell, some of them would do ten days to win a big case.”

Texas Monthly readers familiar with the stories I wrote in 2012 about Morton’s case were particularly incensed by the brevity of Anderson’s sentence, and took to our Facebook page to register their disgust.

Regardless of whether justice was served, a single, extraordinary fact—which was announced last Friday after Anderson’s plea, though it garnered little attention—will ensure accountability. Innocence Project director Barry Scheck told reporters that the current Williamson County D.A., Jana Duty, had agreed to allow an independent review of every single case that Anderson had ever prosecuted. The audit will hopefully answer the question that many people have wondered since Morton’s exoneration in 2011. Was Anderson’s misconduct in the Morton case the exception or the rule?

Such an audit would be unusual for any district attorney’s office, but for Williamson County, it’s nothing less than extraordinary. During the more than quarter-century in which Anderson and his protégé, John Bradley, ran the office, it was one of the most secretive and adversarial in the state. Now Duty will be allowing some sunlight to shine in, opening Anderson’s old files up to scrutiny.

Patricia Cummings—who served on Morton’s legal team in recent years, and who previously worked under Anderson as an assistant prosecutor—is now working with the Williamson County DA’s office to identify which cases require further examination. “We’re trying to determine how many cases Anderson took to trial in which there was a conviction,” the Innocence Project’s senior staff attorney, Nina Morrison, told me. “Depending on that number, we may look at all of those cases, or we may start with just the ones in which someone is still in prison.” After the scope of the audit has been defined, Morrison said, the goal is to launch an independent examination of flagged cases at no cost to taxpayers. “We’re in discussions with a major international law firm about conducting the review pro bono,” she said. Members of the Innocence Project of Texas and the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, as well as UT Law School professor Jennifer Laurin and her law students, are also expected to play a role.

The audit is not limited to Anderson. It will also examine other cases in which Bradley—who opposed DNA testing in the Morton case for a full six years—successfully opposed DNA testing.

“In the cases that Anderson tried, the focus will be to examine whether there was material that was favorable to the defense that should have been turned over,” Morrison said. “That’s going to require a review of the full trial record, so each case is going to be very labor-intensive.”

Has the Innocence Project heard from any defendants who feel that they were unfairly prosecuted by Anderson, or any attorneys who believe that their clients’ cases merit further investigation? “We’ve gotten a number of calls and letters from both attorneys and defendants,” Morrison said. “And that’s how this all began—when Michael Morton’s lawyer Bill Allison reached out to us eleven years ago and said, ‘I’ve got a case that’s always stuck with me and bothered me, and I hope you’ll take a look.’”

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  • Erich Noll

    “Texas justice” is an oxymoron.

  • http://fathersmanifesto.net/ Chr1st1an

    I have (fortunately) had very little interaction with judges and prosecutors.

    But in those very few interactions, I have discovered that almost every last one of them had exactly the same lack of honesty and character as Ken Anderson.

    How else can it be explained that American men are two thirds of the WORLD’S prosecutions?

    http://fathersmanifesto.net/prosecutions.htm

  • http://fathersmanifesto.net/ Chr1st1an

    Ditto.

    It makes feminazis so happy to hear our stories.

  • John Trapp

    This piece of rat sh*t only gets 10 DAYS while the guy he wrongfully convicted got 25 YEARS? WTF??

    • http://fathersmanifesto.net/ Chr1st1an

      The system will always protect its own, so it’s up to we the people to take them out.

      In 1986, the American male had already established himself as the world’s most dangerous rapist. At 0.17 rape convictions per 1,000 males, NO country had a rape conviction rate higher than us. Men in Belgium, Hungary, Lithuania, Vanatu, Denmark, and the Slovak Republic were ONE TENTH as likely to be convicted of rape than us. Men in Israel, the Netherlands, Uruguay, Puerto Rico, Armenia, Costa Rica, Switzerland, and Scotland were ONE TWENTIETH as likely. And there were multiple countries where men were orders of magnitude [read: hundreds of times] less likely to be convicted of rape: Trinidad, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Syria, Singapore, Greece, and India.

      But were we happy with that title? .ELL no, instead we continued to rape and rape and rape American women so fast that our rape conviction rate continued to skyrocket, so that by 1999, a man in Singapore was ONE TWO THOUSANDTH as likely to be convicted of rape as us. While we were raping away, the numbers of rapes in many countries actually decreased. In China, the number of rapes dropped 19%, from 35,004 to 29,426, and in Japan from 702 to 536. In Estonia they dropped from 88 to 23, a whopping 74% decrease, and in my favorite country Ireland they dropped from 25 to 21.

      So how come so much of the rest of the world, who already had so few rapists, had even fewer in such a short time, while the number of rapists here increased an order of magnitude [read: ten times]?

      Or did it?

      Are American women actually, er, I mean, lying about being “raped”? Did the definition of “rape” change so much in such a short time that every American male is now guilty of “rape”?

      So what’s the truth here? Are men in the US REALLY TWO THOUSAND TIMES (2,000X) more likely to be rapists than men in Singapore? Or is it just that women in the US are 2,000 times more likely to be liars than women in Singapore?

      I’d choose the latter. In the interests of being a conservative (which I am NOT), let’s assume that American men are “only” 20% more likely to be rapists than men in, say, Italy, Japan, or Cyprus, 3 countries whose governments I know and trust. That would mean that American men, rather than having a rape conviction rate of 0.21 per 100,000 men (which is also expressed as .0021 per 1,000 men) would have one of 0.252 per 100,000 men. And THAT would mean that our actual rape conviction rate in 1985 of 17 per 100,000 men would have been made up of the following components:

      Rapists – 3,435

      Liars – 19,736

      So as of 1985, by any reasonable moral world standard, we already had 6 times as many liars as rapists.

      Between 1986 and 1999, what possibly could have happened to men in this country to explain a 50% increase in that conviction rate from 17 to 25 per 100,000 men? HOW could men have ACTUALLY gotten even MORE violent than this already super high rate of sexual violence?

      Now I’m VERY suspicious about the legitimacy of this feminist mass hysteria about every American man being a rapist. Of the 34,075 men convicted of rape in 1999, what reason do we have to believe that any more than 3,435 were actually guilty of rape, and the other 30,640 were falsely accused and tried and convicted and imprisoned by women (and police, and prosecutors, and even JUDGES like Ken Anderson), who simply lied? We are now up to 9 liars for each one rapist:

      Rapists – 3,435

      Liars – 30,640

      UNLESS it’s at all possible that American men are NOT any more likely to be rapists than men in Singapore, in which event there were only TWO RAPES and 30,638 liars, meaning that for each one rapist, there were 15,319 liars [meaning that American women have one chance out of 15,319 of telling a truth about rape]:

      Rapists – 2

      Liars – 30,638

      It’s not that Singapore has no rapists. It’s only that Singapore has so few women lying about rape that the police don’t spend 99.9% of their time dealing false allegations and can devote their time to solving *legitimate* rapes. And this is mainly why during this time the number of rapes dropped six fold, from six to ONE.

      While the Bureau of Justice Statistics appears to have quit keeping specific rape conviction rates since 1999 (or at least made it very difficult to locate them), we do know that since then, the incarceration rate in federal prisons more than doubled, and the rate in some state’s prisons almost doubled. So while it might seem incredible that the 1999 rate which was already 2,000 times higher than Hong Kong or Singapore, is now FOUR THOUSAND TIMES (4,000X) higher–but it also does seem to be possible, if not inevitable.

      Keep that in mind as you try to smear my Alma Mater U.Va. even more than it’s already been smeared by two known LIARS who have made a very profitable career out of LYING: Sabrina Rubin Erdely, et. al.

      • Logicrules

        In many of the other countries you’ve named, it is not a crime to rape.

        • http://fathersmanifesto.net/ Chr1st1an

          That is simply Not true. I’ve lived in many different countries and have yet to find even one where that is even remotely possible. And it’s the countries where the penalty for rape is death who have the lowest crime rates, and particularly the lowest rape rates.

          How did China almost eliminate their drug abuse problem at the same time we became the world’s most profuse drug abusers? The death penalty for drug dealers, and women who commit perjury, who are about half of the 2,000 executions there each year (compared to ONLY 40 here).

  • Ryan Scheel

    Lies leading to execution happened many times in history. There’s no doubt it’s happened and still happening now in America.

  • MichaelLust

    Unfortunately, it is not just a Texas problem, either. This is a species of injustice that corrupts our “justice” system from sea to shining sea. We have no way to even know how often, but in 25 years of work in criminal cases, I’ve been led to the sad conclusion that it is far from unusual. I am gratified to hear that, in your case, at least, there was eventually some kind of remedy. Pity that the system has no way to give you back those 18 years… and no appetite to exact compensatory justice on those who did this to you, and to so many others.

    • Lyle Puddleton

      How does it feel to know that a lie detector machine delivers better justice than an elected official with extensive training?

      This is indeed a sign that moral bankruptcy has completely consumed the nation’s legal system. What confirms the state of complete bankruptcy; the same industry that is perpetrating crimes in the justice system is silent – after the mistakes are revealed. Their silence is tacit approval of injustice. You could say that – from the silence – the entire legal industry is corrupt or at the very least morally bankrupt.

      I will never forget the way that the California Bar association rationalized the cold blooded murder of a teen from Los Angeles.

      We need a ballot measure in California, to replace judges with regularly calibrated lie detector machines. No attendant necessary, just record the bio-metric data and make it public.

      I am giving up on the courts – the silence from the legal industry is their way of saying, “You poor people better shut up and take it! ….We rich people will frame you, imprison you, and not pay you a penny in compensation..because we can!”

  • William Mear

    I was also a victim of Ken Anderson. Who could I contact to get BS conviction overturned.

  • Lyle Puddleton

    Ken Anderson was a judge, who as a D.A., framed Michael Morton, ignored his son, an eye-witness, and evidence of another killer. As a result, Morton did 25 years for something he did not do, and the killer murdered two other women.

    Judge Ken Anderson did 10 days in jail. The man he framed did 25 years. The women who were murdered because of him – are dead.

    Technically, that makes Judge Ken Anderson a murderer – but the law doesn’t look at it this way. We need to change the law, so that cops and prosecutors are guilty of murder when they lie or frame people in murder cases. Lie detectors really do screen bad candidates. But if we do not change something – American courts will eventually be replaced with a lie detector machine.

    A lie detector would deliver a higher accuracy rate than what we’re seeing in the U.S. Justice system, which is as bad as 20% false convictions in some places (Texas).

    I ain’t messing with, visiting, or doing business with Texas, until they start caring about truth and justice. It is just not a safe place, like Florida and New York. And Missouri and New Mexico, and Chicago and Detroit, and Los Angeles, Fullerton and Stockton. A lot of cities are railroading, threatening and murdering citizens.

    This either stops or we lose the nation.

    http://www.texasmonthly.com/story/jail-time-may-be-least-ken-anderson%E2%80%99s-problems

  • Lyle Puddleton

    Brandon – I have tremendous respect for you, and have dedicated 40 years of my life to stop this demonic orgy of cannibal Caligula prosecutors from eating the flesh of innocent people. But nobody listens. People do seem to care, but they act helpless. Rich people. Poor people. If it isn’t their kin, they don’t ever seem to feel comfortable fighting for the innocence of people they don’t know.

    I have studied this for 40 years, and from the Duke Lacross players to Delorean, to Michael Jackson, Richard David Kimble, and the lesser known innocents. They are freed – but nothing changes. The dishonest people who go after them are not held responsible, not even forced to explain why the framed innocents or went after innocents. They often keep their public service jobs, and others that have been framed by the same Nifongs, must often wait years before their cases are even reviewed. States tell you, “Sorry” but don’t give you a penny; if they do you have to spend millions in court fighting for compensation. With your life destroyed.

    Nobody seems to realize that if we create enough support, we can build a major organization, establish a major advocacy and P.R. organization, with a huge legal fund, with money for lobbying the states and the federal government.

    ACLU and Amnesty are sidetracked. Innocence Project is focused on getting people free.

    What I’m talking about is an organization that will go after the Nifongs – even before they are exposed as rogue. When they start threatening witnesses, ignoring witnesses and fabricating evidence before the trail – they need to be challenged in the courts, and in the media.

    NOTE: Michael Nifong, the D.A. who filed bogus charges against four (4) Lacross players from Duke, never interviewed the alleged victim. Not once. He was forced to resign, and his name is synonymous with rogue prosecutors.

    We citizens sit around – while cops, D.A.s, lab techs and judges frame anybody they want – and get away with it.

    I think Americans act like a bunch of girly men. Punks. Losers. Cowards. Jelly spined zombies. We have failed as friends, neighbors and fellow citizens. We’re not even America anymore.

    Why can’t we get an organization to bully the bullies?

    • David Hannon Pierce

      You know that Richard David Kimble is a fictional character, right?

      • Alexander Nevermind

        Tommy Lee voice :”your fugitive’s name is Dr Richard Kimble, GO GET HIM!”

  • Lyle Puddleton

    “Hollow apology” from a man who destroyed not just your life, but many others. James 5 and the story of Lazarus and the rich man apply here. Luke 16:19-31

    In the first scripture, the brother of Jesus describes what happens when the evil rich imprison and oppress the poor. In the second, the rich man is condemned to hell, and must watch the poor man rest in the bosom of Abraham (heaven).

    The thing I need right now – is something for my stomach. Reading about Texas and Texas prosecutors makes me sick as a dog. It makes me want to find somebody with a Texas license plate, and speak my mind, right up in their face. With lots of spit and as loud as I could shout. But that would be rude.

    Note: Every Texan who turns their back on the innocent – and who does not support the innocent, – ‎Matthew 25:34 has your future.

  • Lyle Puddleton

    Thanks SocraticGadfly – no wrongful death suit is possible. They have complete immunity from this type of civil action.

    I think they need to be drawn and quartered, and all their assets given to victims.

    Destroy lives and walk away. That is the American justice system. Ask Koua Fong Lee.

    I am an American, but I must say, the legal industry is downright demonic. From judges to prosecutors, to state and federal AGs. They only go after poor people, and they themselves perpetrate as much crime as they want – and never go to jail.

  • JamieHaman

    It’s been a year since you wrote this comment, and I hope it has been a good year for you.
    What astounds me is how you don’t read as utterly bitter over this, and my hat is off to you for that.
    Hope you get your money soonest, if not already, and may every day of the rest of your life be filled with good things and people.

  • MorningStar Arcata

    charge him with accessory to homicide! Prosecutors charge the plebes with every possible offense, often 5+ similar charges for a nonviolent offense, but his bail is only $2500, and he serves 5 days in jail !!!!

  • Bruce Welty

    Now! All the cases he has prosecuted and tried will have to be reinvestigated, maybe even totally turned over.

  • gauzy strip

    I was arrested for a 1st time minor drug offense for possession of a tiny amount of a substance that was not mine. Ken Anderson threw me in jail and set my bail at a quarter of a million dollars.. A QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLARS! The owner of the substance for which I was arrested came forward and signed an affidavit stating that the substance belonged to him. Anderson tried to intimidate me into pleading guilty and agreeing to spend a year in a drug treatment facility. It was rumored that Anderson profited in some way by sending inmates to this treatment center. I was incarcerated for months, as I refused to sign anything. It got to the point where my attorney was going to have to file a writ of habeas corpus. FINALLY, I was released. This man gave me the creeps from the instant I stepped into his courtroom. Karma sucks, eh, Anderson??

  • gauzy strip

    I also know of your case. Hope you are still doing well!

    • Brandon Moon

      Thank you. I do my best to enjoy life.