That Texas State Judge who as a Williamson County D.A. oversaw the 1987 wrongful murder conviction of Michael Morton and who was then subsequently charged with deliberately withholding evidence and making false statements just got sentenced this afternoon.
With a 1-day credit for time served, Judge Ken Anderson will on December 2nd begin serving 9 days in jail and also pay a $500 fine. In addition, he’ll have to do 500 hours of community service.
If he’d gone to trial and been convicted of felony evidence-tampering, Anderson could have been sentenced to as much as 10 years. But thanks to his comprehensive settlement, instead of serving less than half of what Morton spent in prison, upon his release Anderson will look forward to a cushy retirement thanks to his 27 combined years of ‘public service’ — 16 as a D.A. and 11 as a state judge.
But 10 days in jail when compared to almost 9,125 days — or 0.1095% of the 25 years wrongfully served by Michael Morton — well pick your favorite acronym for this travesty and you won’t be wrong if you file this plea deal under “W.T.F,” “B.S.” “H.S.S” or if you just call the whole thing ‘bullshitastic.”
But deal or no deal, Anderson continues saying he committed no wrongdoing in the prosecution of Michael Morton. Also see “Ex-DA takes plea in wrongful conviction case.”
And just last month, a clueless wag at the Austin American-Statesman prematurely extolled “the system flawed but triumphant.” Lauding the replacement of Judge Anderson by another jurist, he hailed “a system where failures can happen. But it is also a system where failures can be recognized and addressed. A system where amends – however belated – can be made. Flawed though it no doubt is, the system worked.” Yeah — rrrriiiigggghhhhtttt.
Graciously and far more generously than merited, following the sentencing, Michael Morton told the assembled press, “It’s a good day. I said the only thing that I want, as a baseline, is Ken Anderson to be off the bench and no longer practicing law — and both of those things happened, and more.”
But after serving almost a quarter century in prison, he’s nobody’s Pollyanna. His miscarriage of justice was only finally corrected when DNA evidence exonerated him and he was freed on October 4, 2011. So knowing first-hand how things actually work in practice, he also acknowledged, “This is as much accountability as our system can give us at this time.”
My cynical heart.
So damn if I wasn’t prognosticatingly accurate a year ago posting “be still my cynical heart” as I continued expressing doubt Williamson County Judge Ken Anderson would get anything more than “a censorious wrist-slap with a feather-duster.” And the year before, I’d even posted the discipline odds were ‘slim to none’ in the Texas State Bar’s misconduct inquiry. I only wish I’d been wrong.
But then as Terry Pratchett once wrote, “If there was anything that depressed him more than his own cynicism, it was that quite often it still wasn’t as cynical as real life.”