Prosecutor Jailed and Fined After Convicting An Innocent Man

On this episode of “Things I Learned Today,” I’m talking about Ken Anderson, a prosecuting attorney who plead guilty to willfully withholding evidence, becoming the first ever prosecuting attorney to get jail time for his wrongful conviction. In this case, the conviction of Michael Morton, who spent 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife. A murder he didn’t commit. The part that makes this unusual, is that Anderson knew he was convicting an innocent man.

When a person goes on trial in this country, it’s supposed to be “innocent until proven guilty.” Of course, it’s often not anymore, but that’s the way it should be. The evidence is supposed to stack up to the facts, and if it is decided that this evidence, beyond any doubt, says that you did it, you get punished for the crime.

All too often though, even those who are ruled to be innocent are still cast out from the general public. People still point fingers, take to social media with hatred, or even get violent with them, and they sometimes have to change their identity and/or move away as a result.

…but what happens when you are innocent, but convicted anyways? What happens when you’ve been in prison for over 2 decades, only to be released after further investigation tells of your innocence? What then?

Michael Morton was released from prison in 2011 after DNA evidence showed that he didn’t beat his wife to death. He spent 25 years of his life incarcerated because of Ken Anderson, a prosecuting attorney at the time, and now judge, who withheld critical evidence from the defense team during the court proceedings. One example of critical evidence that Mr. Anderson kept from the court? The only person that worked as a witness for the crime made statements claiming it wasn’t Morton that did it. That’s a pretty big deal.

Morton is from the state of Texas, which is shown to have the biggest problem with freeing prisoners based on DNA evidence. In the last 25 years, 117 people have been freed as a result of it.

Anderson is on a videotaped deposition saying he couldn’t remember if there was any evidence that would have cleared Morton, but if he had known about it, he would have given it to the defense team. He’s also on record apologizing to Morton, saying it was a “failure of the system”, but still believing that there was no misconduct. Later, as you can tell from the first part of this story, Mr. Anderson admitted what he did and plead guilty to it.

Michael has appeared in numerous interviews since being freed in 2011, including a spot on 60 minutes. As you can see, sleezebag attorneys are still practicing in Texas, including Anderson’s own representation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcyYCJZ5JTI

So what’s the result of all of this? Surely Ken Anderson is getting punished for destroying a life, right? Well Anderson will be disbarred, effectively ruining his career in law. He also must spend 10 days in jail, is fined $500, and perform 500 hours of community service.

Wait… $500? That’s… that’s it? You’re kidding right? This guy was an attorney for 30 years, 25 of which occurred after putting this innocent guy behind bars by hiding critical evidence, an act which he clearly is showing no remorse for, and doesn’t believe was misconduct. An 18 year old kid can go to jail for half a decade on a first time possession offense for a harmless naturally growing plant, but this guy can completely ruin a life and a family, and get this?

What of the actual killer? They’ve been free to kill more for 25 years, and have since taken an extra life. They’ve been free to experience the beautiful things in life. They got to live through everything that Michael Morton didn’t, because of this guy.

Now Morton can also seek financial compensation from the state as a result of this as well, and that’s likely the best course of action seeing as Texas pays out $80,000 for every year that a person spent behind bars. There is also an annual annuity paid out as well, which is in line with the average working wage. Those who are exonerated in that state are also provided with job training, tuition credits, and adequate medical and dental coverage.

Michael is also working with a film crew that’s immortalizing his story through a documentary film. The trailer is below:

What do you guys think of this story? Is justice really possible here? What should be done differently, let me know in your comments below.

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Charlie Pryor

Charlie is a media producer, writer, and a traveler. He grew up in Michigan, all of his life and attended Grand Valley State University for a B.S. in Film and Video Production. He's married to a wonderful woman named Hang, and simply hopes to one day turn himself into a man that many will remember long after he's gone.

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