Former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson resigned from his post as Williamson County District Judge by sending Governor Rick Perry a letter on September 23, 2013. According to the Innocence Project newsletter of September 30, 2013, “the state convened a Court of Inquiry to investigate whether Anderson committed criminal acts by failing to turn over evidence pointing to Morton’s Innocence. In April, a Texas judge ruled there was probable cause to believe Anderson violated three criminal laws, and he was charged with the offenses. The Texas Bar Association also brought ethical charges against Anderson. A trial on those charges was scheduled to begin today but was adjourned for a month.”
In the newsletter of November 27, 2013, the Innocence Project reports that “Former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson entered a plea to criminal contempt for deliberately withholding exculpatory evidence pointing to the innocence of Michael Morton.” Anderson received 10 days in Williamson County Jail, a $500 fine, 500 hours of community service and permanently surrendered his license to practice law.
The Innocence Project newsletter reads, “This marks an extremely rare instance, and perhaps the first time, that a prosecutor has been criminally punished for failing to turn over exculpatory evidence that led to a wrongful conviction.”
The Innocence Project is cooperating with the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the Texas Innocence Project to review other cases and determine whether there are more wrongfully convicted prisoners, whom Anderson had prosecuted.
If this damage limitation can be called “punishment” is another question. But if an unethical ex-prosecutor and current judge can be stopped this way in Texas, it is possible anywhere. When will it happen in Louisiana?
Innocence Project Newsletter of February 8, 2012
…With Connick v. Thompson, the U.S. Supreme Court took away one of the only remaining means for the wrongfully convicted to hold prosecutors accountable for willful misconduct. Although all other professionals, from doctors to airline pilots to clergy, can be held liable for their negligence, the Supreme Court has effectively given district attorney offices legal immunity for the actions of their assistants, even when an office is deliberately indifferent to its responsibility to disclose exculpatory evidence.
It is now up to our elected officials to strengthen our existing systems and create new ones if necessary to ensure that prosecutor’s offices are accountable and transparent. Contact your elected officials and demand that they strengthen safeguards against prosecutorial misconduct and protections for the wrongfully convicted in your state.
The Innocence Project
Join the campaign by visiting the website at http://www.prosecutorialoversight.org and on Facebook and Twitter.
The State of Louisiana has executed 15 of 28 individuals sentenced to death under Governor Edwin W. Edwards since 1976 — 13 by electrocution and 2 by lethal injection.
Edwin Edwards himself has recently finished an 8+ year term in federal prison for a corruption conviction and still claims that he was merely guilty of arrogance.
If Edwards actually does know the pain, damage, and what it means to be imprisoned for a crime one did not commit, would it not be a good thing for him to use his popularity and powerful connections to help free those in Louisiana’s penal system who can prove their innocence, but are repeatedly denied their constitutional rights in court?
Vincent Simmons is a native from Edwards’ home parish and one of those who are not just serving a few years, but decades, life without the benefit of parole, pardon or suspension of sentence, or even a death sentence in prison — wrongfully convicted.
Edwards and his third wife may be the stars of a new TV show soon. Nothing specific is known. However, a reality television show about the struggle of innocent prisoners would not only be entertaining, interesting and educational, it might be constructive and improve the injustice system. What you say, Mr. Edwards? Are you ready to step on your political friends’ toes?