Florida Criminal Defense and DUI Defense Blog

16Dec, 13

A former Texas district attorney entered into an unusual plea bargain recently.

He agreed to serve 10 days in jail for withholding evidence that could have stopped an innocent man from going to prison for nearly 25 years.

This is apparently the first time a prosecutor has been sent to jail for concealing evidence helpful to the defense, according to news sources.

Former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson agreed to a plea deal that will also
require him to pay a $500 fine and complete 500 hours of community service after state District
Judge Kelly Moore found him in contempt of court for telling a trial judge in 1987 that he had no
exculpatory evidence to hand over to lawyers for Michael Morton, whose conviction in his wife’s
death was overturned in 2011.

Charges of tampering with evidence — which could have meant 10 years in prison — were dropped as part of the deal, under which Anderson will be disbarred.

Prosecutors are required by law to share any evidence they collect that could help the defense. This kind of evidence, known in legal circles as “Brady” evidence, includes evidence that impeaches or contradicts prosecution witnesses, as well as evidence that actually proves a suspect’s innocence.

But Anderson withheld two critical facts in his prosecution of Morton: that witnesses reported seeing a man park a green van nearby and walk into the woods near the Morton’s house and that Morton’s 3-year-old son specifically said Morton wasn’t at the scene.

Regrettably, many prosecutors fail to meet their obligations when it comes to Brady evidence. Some fail to understand what the term “exculpatory” means. Others, such as Anderson, care more about winning than obeying the law themselves.

It is difficult to call the Anderson case justice, however. This prosecutor caused an innocent man to spend 25 years in prison, and the prosecutor was only sentenced to serve ten days. And he was reportedly released after serving only five.

That is not justice. But it’s a start.

Attorney Mike Kessler
Written by: Attorney Mike Kessler

Attorney Kessler has been practicing criminal law in Florida for 30 years. He is recognized as is a leading authority on drunk-driving defense as well as a founding member of the Saint Lucie County Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and co-author of The DUI Book: Florida Edition, the definitive resource on DUI in Florida.

To speak with Mike, call 772-466-4900 or click here for a free consultation.

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