Unless you've been out of the country or otherwise disconnected from the world you know that the court of inquiry involving former District Attorney (and current judge) Ken Anderson was held last week. The purpose was to look into his actions in handling the prosecution of Michael Morton - who was exonerated after spending 25 years in prison.
Pamela Coloff with Texas Monthly wrote a terrific piece on the case, and also reported on the hearing. Her report of Anderson's testimony was telling for several reasons. He clearly did not believe he should be there, and made sure everyone knew it. Here's what she wrote:
The former Williamson County D.A. was defiant as he fielded questions by attorney pro tem Rusty Hardin; Anderson discounted the importance of the inquiry itself, struck a sarcastic tone, and cast himself as the victim of a “media frenzy.” He offered a vague apology to Michael Morton without taking any personal responsibility for his role in Michael’s wrongful conviction, stating that “the system screwed up” and that he could not think of anything he could have done more than a quarter century ago that would have caused a different outcome.
Michael Morton probably had the best insight into his testimony, stating:
“I think we saw someone who is still struggling with denial and anger. . . .This is a man who has been in a position of power for almost three decades, and for the first time has had to answer for his actions, and he’s very uncomfortable with that.”
Some people would be humbled by being placed in that situation. The fact that he wasn't tells you all you need to know about his character.
What I found telling were his complaints about the process - the same complaints that have probably been made by thousands of people he prosecuted. He's upset about spending his life savings against charges he believes are unfounded. Guess what - that's nothing new. Criminal defendants don't get reimbursed for the money they spend defending themselves when they are found not guilty.
The fact that he's even complaining about the money he spent should be insulting. That pales in comparison to losing 25 years of your life. While Michael Morton was in prison, Ken Anderson was working - and accumulating those savings. He got to go home to his family every evening, and see his kids grow. Michael Morton got to watch life through prison bars.
Ken Anderson wants everyone to believe this was an anomaly - that this was the only innocent person he ever convicted. He wants the benefit of the doubt. How many defendants do you think he gave the benefit of the doubt? Prosecutors have a saying they love to use - the best predictor of the future is past behavior. In other words - once a criminal, always a criminal. Prosecutors routinely look at criminal histories - and if a defendant has committed the same type of crime before, they feel a lot better about their case. If we use the same logic on Mr. Anderson, then we have to assume this same pattern of conduct was repeated hundreds of times over the course of his tenure as District Attorney.
I'm sure I'm not the only criminal defense who is amused at seeing the same techniques he used for years as a prosecutor being used against him. You would hope that this would generate a new respect for what criminal defendants experience - but I doubt it.
Whatever the outcome, it appears clear that Mr. Anderson didn't win any friends last week. And certainly didn't help his case.