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Probe of prosecutors urged after DNA reverses Texas murder case

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Michael Morton was released from a Texas prison in October, having served almost 25 years of a life sentence for a murder DNA tests later indicated he did not commit.

After winning his release, Morton’s lawyers at the New York-based Innocence Project began investigating alleged misconduct by the prosecutors whose work led to Morton’s conviction. Another man has now been charged with the killing.

On Monday, Morton’s lawyers filed a report summing up their investigation. In the report, Morton’s attorneys argue that former Williamson County Dist. Atty. Ken Anderson, now a district court judge, acted improperly while prosecuting Morton for the 1986 slaying of his wife, Christine, at their home in the Austin suburb of Georgetown.

Morton’s lawyers are expected to discuss the report at a hearing today before District Judge Sid Harle in Georgetown.

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Morton and his lawyers are also expected to ask Harle to establish a ‘court of inquiry’ to examine allegations that Anderson illegally suppressed evidence by failing to provide documents requested by Morton’s trial judge. Another district would likely be appointed to lead the special court.

The report, published by the Austin American-Statesman, faults Anderson for refusing “to take any personal responsibility” for Morton’s wrongful conviction.

Last month Anderson called a news conference to say he was sorry ‘for the system’s failure,’ not his own. He denied any misconduct, just as he had during a deposition with Morton’s attorneys the month before.

“The problem in the Morton case is not that the system failed, but that Judge Anderson did not play by the rules,” the report said.

Eric Nichols, an Austin attorney representing Anderson, called the portrayal of his conduct “one-sided.”

“Anderson stands firm in his belief that the prosecution and trial were handled ethically and appropriately,” Nichols said.

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-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Houston




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