In a deposition made public Tuesday, Mike Davis, a former assistant district attorney in Williamson County, pointed the finger for any alleged wrongdoing that led to the prosecution of Michael Morton directly at his former boss, Ken Anderson.
Davis provided testimony Oct. 29 as part of an ongoing investigation by defense lawyers into whether Williamson County officials intentionally withheld information that could have prevented Morton's 1987 murder conviction and life sentence in the killing of his wife, Christine Morton. According to the transcript, a representative of the State Bar of Texas also attended the Davis deposition. That agency is also investigating allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in the Morton case.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals exonerated Morton last month. DNA evidence revealed that another man was likely responsible for his wife's 1986 murder. Morton was released after spending nearly 25 years in prison.
Morton's attorneys - John Raley of the Houston law firm Raley & Bowick and lawyers at the New York-based Innocence Project - allege that the Williamson County district attorney's office intentionally withheld a transcript in which Christine Morton’s mother told the lead investigator in the murder that the couple’s 3-year-old son, Eric, saw a "monster" who was not his father brutally attack his mother. They also contend that prosecutors withheld information about Christine Morton's credit card being used and a check being cashed with her forged signature days after her death.
During the investigation and trial, Davis worked for Anderson, who was then the district attorney. Anderson, who was also deposed last week, is now a Williamson County district judge. In his testimony, made public on Tuesday, Davis said he recalled few details of the proceedings two decades ago and that Anderson would have been in control of the case, deciding which information to give Morton's attorneys and what documents to provide to the judge.
"Any murder case was Ken Anderson's baby," Davis said in his deposition.
In court documents, the former prosecutors - Davis and Anderson - have denied wrongdoing.
In 1987, the trial judge ordered Anderson provide him reports from the Williamson County Sheriff's Office lead investigator that might help exonerate Morton. Lawyers for Morton became suspicious that prosecutors had withheld information from the judge when jurors reported to them that Davis said after the trial that there was an inch-thick stack of police reports that jurors never saw that could have raised more doubt about Morton's guilt. Morton's lawyers asked for a new trial, but the request was denied.
This year, Morton's lawyers learned that the transcript, the credit card, check cashing reports and information about witnesses who saw a suspicious van scouting the neighborhood were not provided to the judge. The file contained only a few pages of initial police reports.
In his deposition, Davis told Morton's lawyers that he was surprised during the trial that Anderson was fighting not to turn over information to defense lawyers. He said he was "shocked to hear about this kid transcript or story or whatever it was." And he said he didn't know about the credit card and check transactions that happened after Christine Morton's death.
Davis said he did not recall telling the jury after Morton's conviction that there was a thick file of police reports that might have swayed their decision. "I can't dispute it, sir," he said, adding, "I do not remember the file, but I would think any major murder investigation was going to be more than an inch thick."
Davis, who left the district attorney's office just days after the Morton case ended, said Anderson had a close working relationship with then-Sheriff Jim Boutwell. And he said Anderson prided himself on knowing all the details of cases that he tried, describing him as "a control guy" when it came to his investigations.
The transcript and other information, Davis said, should have been turned over to the judge and to Morton's attorneys. When he learned about the DNA evidence that exonerated Morton, Davis said he went to Anderson's office and confronted him about whether he had concealed the transcript outlining details of the attack young Eric Morton witnessed. "And he says, 'We turned it over,'" Davis said.
Davis also described a scene that unfolded in the Williamson County courthouse on the day that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals exonerated Morton. Davis was in Anderson's courtroom, and he said current District Attorney John Bradley arrived and insisted on a meeting with Davis and Anderson in a back room. Anderson wanted to meet with Bradley alone, Davis said, and the two went into a separate room. "And Judge Anderson and Mr. Bradley had a discussion which was pretty loud," Davis said. "I could hear raised voices, but I couldn't tell what they were saying."
Davis contended he had no knowledge that anything was withheld from Morton's lawyers, and that he was disturbed to learn that information was allegedly supressed. "It troubles me greatly," Davis said.
The transcript of Anderson's deposition, which was conducted last week, is expected to be released soon.
By John Bradley, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
Source: The Texas Tribune