Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ex-prosecutor punished over bad conviction

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GEORGETOWN, Texas -- A former Texas prosecutor charged over a wrongful murder conviction agreed to a 10-day jail sentence Friday, accepting the punishment in front of the innocent man he helped put in prison for nearly 25 years.

Ken Anderson also will be disbarred and must serve 500 hours of community service as part of a sweeping deal that was expected to end all criminal and civil cases against the embattled ex-district attorney, who was the face of the law in a tough-on-crime Texas county for 30 years.

Anderson, 61, never spoke in his return to the same courthouse where he served as a state judge for 11 years before resigning in September.

Sitting behind Anderson in the gallery was Michael Morton, who was released from prison in 2011 after DNA evidence showed he didn't beat his wife to death in 1986.

"It's a good day," said Morton, surrounded by family members.

Asked if he felt satisfaction in watching the role reversal -- Anderson at the defence table, waiting to be put behind bars -- Morton took the high road.

"It was one of those necessary evils, or distasteful requirements that you have to do in life," he said. Morton didn't dwell on the length of the jail sentence, saying the punishment "or lack thereof" was as much as the legal system could dole out at this time.

Since being freed from prison, Morton has become a visible embodiment of problems in the legal system in Texas, which leads the nation in prisoners set free by DNA testing -- 117 in the last 25 years. Earlier this year, the former Republican chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court urged lawmakers to act on the issue.

Anderson entered a plea of no contest to contempt of court. The charge stemmed from a 1987 exchange when Anderson, then the Williamson County district attorney, was asked by a judge whether he had anything to offer that was favourable to Morton's defence. He said no.

But among the evidence Morton's attorneys claim was kept from them were statements from Morton's then three-year-old son, who witnessed the murder and said his father wasn't responsible. There were also interviews with neighbours who told authorities they saw another man near the Morton home before the slaying.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 9, 2013 A27

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