AUSTIN (August 1, 2013)--A special prosecutor has been named in the criminal case against former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson who’s accused of withholding evidence in a murder trial that sent an innocent man to prison for nearly 25 years.
Richard Roper was U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas from 2004 to 2008 and now specializes in business law.
Roper will head the case against Anderson, who is now a state district judge in Georgetown.
Anderson handled the 1987 prosecution of Michael Morton for killing his wife Christine.
Morton was exonerated on DNA evidence in 2011.
A special court of inquiry determined in April that Anderson intentionally concealed evidence that would have been beneficial to Morton's defense.
If convicted, Anderson could face as much as 10 years in prison.
In April District Judge Louis Sturns of Fort Worth, said he would issue an arrest warrant for Anderson on criminal contempt and tampering charges for his handling of Morton’s case.
Morton was released from prison in 2011 after new DNA test results showed he didn’t kill his wife in the 1980s.
Anderson, who has denied any wrongdoing, was sworn in as judge of Williamson County’s 277th District Court after serving as the county’s district attorney for nearly 17 years and as an assistant prosecutor for more than five years.
In March in San Angelo, a jury found Mark Alan Norwood, 58, guilty of capital murder in the beating death of Christine Morton.
Norwood was automatically sentenced to life in prison, but will be eligible for parole in 15 years because of laws in effect at the time of the murder.
Morton was killed as she lay in bed in the home she and her husband shared in Williamson County.
Investigators said new DNA tests on a bloody bandanna found near Morton's home pointed to Norwood as the killer.
Michael Morton called the conviction a “mixed bag.”
“It's not a celebration, and it's not a happy day,” the Austin American-Statesman reported.
The newspaper reported that Morton hugged Norwood's mother and brother after the verdict.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued a statement calling the verdict “a dose of long overdue justice.”
“No jury verdict can bring back the life that was tragically stolen from the young mother, Christine Morton,” he said, “nor can it recover the devastating years that her husband Michael Morton spent unjustly imprisoned for her murder.
“We can only hope that today’s verdict provides some much-deserved, but woefully delayed, justice for a family that suffered so terribly for so long,” he said.