Criminal Justice

Ex-Prosecutor, Now a Judge, Accused of Hiding Exculpatory Evidence

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A former Texas prosecutor, now a sitting judge, has been accused of withholding exculpatory evidence in the prosecution of an Austin-area man who spent 25 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit.

Lawyers for Michael Morton, whom DNA evidence has exonerated in the 1986 murder of his wife, Christine, say former Willamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson, now a sitting judge in the same county, failed to turn over evidence to the defense that cast doubt on Morton’s guilt, the Associated Press reports.

The evidence includes a statement by the victim’s mother, who told investigators at the time that her 3-year-old grandson—Morton’s son—had described seeing a “monster” beat his mother to death. It also includes evidence that the victim’s credit card was used in San Antonio two days after her murder and that a forged check in her name was cashed a week later.

“I think everybody can see how offensive this conduct is, if true,” said Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck, one of Morton’s lawyers. “I am profoundly troubled by this. Profoundly troubled, and determined to get answers.”

Morton was freed last week after DNA testing on evidence in the case linked the killing—and that of another Austin-area woman two years later—to another man with a prison record in seven states. Police have not publicly identified the suspect, whom they are now trying to locate.

Anderson didn’t respond to several requests for comment, the AP says. John Bradley, the current district attorney, said the defense lawyers’ claims are “just allegations. No one has offered any proof.”

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