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Function of Juries | 09 Nov 2013

-Anderson Case Illustrates for Jurors Bias in the Courtroom


Jury BoxJurors should understand the case of disgraced former Williamson County, Texas district attorney Ken Anderson as a telling illustration of how the legal system is tilted in favor of prosecution.

Ken Anderson to serve 10 days in jail

Former Williamson County district attorney Ken Anderson will serve 10 days in jail and give up his law license to settle accusations that he hid favorable evidence in the 1987 trial of Michael Morton, who served almost 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

During an afternoon hearing in Georgetown, District Judge Kelly Moore found Anderson in contempt of court for telling Morton’s trial judge, during a 1987 hearing, that he had no favorable evidence to give to Morton’s lawyers.

In 1987, Anderson withheld evidence favorable to a defendant who would go on to be convicted of the murder of his wife and serve 25 years in prison. He would later be proved innocent through DNA testing. In a gross insult to justice, Anderson will serve just 10 days in jail as part of a plea bargain that will drop criminal charges against him for tampering with evidence, which could have meant 10 years in prison if he was convicted. He is being held in contempt of court for withholding exculpatory evidence, which he informed the judge at the time that he did not have. This was a lie as Anderson withheld two pieces of evidence that fit with the defense theory of an alternate murderer.

Anderson was Williamson County district attorney for 16 years before he became a district court judge in 2002. He resigned from that position in 2012. This is how the system works. Prosecutors are not there to deliver justice, but as paid employees of the state whose job is to get convictions. Those convictions help them progress along the career path from prosecutor to judge, where they remain paid employees of the state, dependent on a clogged legal system to maintain their livelihood.

This insultingly short sentence- roughly ONE THOUSANDTH OF ONE PERCENT of the time Anderson’s innocent victim spent in jail -turns out to be extremely hefty in terms of how prosecutors are normally held accountable, which is typically on the order of not at all. “This is the first time in the country’s history that a prosecutor has been found guilty of criminal contempt, will go to jail and be stripped of their law license,” says Gerald Goldstein, an attorney for the Innocence Project.

In an environment that breeds prosecutorial abuse with virtually no accountability, jurors should be especially skeptical of what they hear in the courtroom and hold prosecutors to a high standard before considering convicting.