Critical murder case evidence was withheld by then-DA, defense lawyer tells court of inquiry
As an unusual court of inquiry proceeds concerning the long-ago work of a prosecutor in a Williamson County murder case, lawyers for the now-exonerated defendant testified that critical evidence had been withheld from the defense.
Earlier, a lawyer for District Judge Ken Anderson, who was the Williamson County DA at the time of Michael Morton’s 1987 murder trial, suggested that recollections may have changed or the defense might simply have opted not to pursue exonerating information provided by his client.
But two lawyers for Morton said they were never told that their client’s 3-year-old son had said another man he described as a “monster” was responsible for his mother’s slaying or that a suspicious man had parked a green van and walked several times into the woods behind the Morton home, the Austin American-Statesman reports.
“Nobody knows what would’ve happened if we had it, but we didn’t,” Bill White testified Wednesday. He and his co-counsel, Bill Allison, said they would have used the evidence aggressively to bolster the defense theory—now considered to be a fact—that another man committed the crime.
Anderson’s counsel also contended that standards concerning what exculptatory evidence must be disclosed to the defense were different at the time of the 1987 murder trial than they are now.
However, White testified that Anderson gave the defense nothing, KXAN reports.
“It was a no-discovery case,” White said. “We did not get any discovery as to anyone’s statements—period.”
Another former prosecutor who worked for Anderson around the time of the murder trial said his boss made a point of not calling police officers as witnesses so that he could avoid releasing their notes, reports the Associated Press.
“He said the reason was, you have a duty to turn over any notes, any files in the case,” testified Doug Arnold, who is now a judge in another area of the state, on Wednesday. “But if you don’t call that witness, the other side can’t have access to those reports on the witness stand or in the court room.”