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Prosecutorial Failure?

Prosecutorial Failure?

Ken Anderson’s Testimony Caps Dramatic Inquiry | The Texas Tribune

Defiant, angry and frustrated, former prosecutor Ken Anderson took the stand on Friday to defend himself, ending a week of dramatic testimony in an unusual court of inquiry that is examining whether the former district attorney committed criminal misconduct during the trial that led to the wrongful murder conviction of Michael Morton.

Morton was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for his wife’s murder, and he spent nearly 25 years behind bars before DNA evidence led to his exoneration in 2011. Lawyers for the exoneree contend that Anderson deliberately withheld critical evidence that could have prevented Morton’s wrongful conviction. Anderson adamantly denied any wrongdoing, and in his often impassioned testimony criticized the court of inquiry.

Ken Anderson’s Testimony Caps Dramatic Inquiry | The Texas Tribune

Ken Anderson is answering some tough questions in a Texas court. He needs tough questioning. He prosecuted an innocent man while allowing the guilty party to continue his crimes.

Overzealous prosecution is not justice. It’s collecting prosecutorial kills for career purposes and is particularly villanous because many defendants have only limited resources to defend themselves from charges. A prosecutor’s discretion is one of the defenses the innocent have.

James Pilant

Over Zealous Prosecution?

Over Zealous Prosecution?

From around the web –

From the web site, Ethics Alarms:

I don’t know whether Anderson intentionally withheld evidence in the process of prosecuting Michael Morton, because he thought Morton was guilty, whether he just made a series of mistakes, or whether, as he says, the system failed. I do know that he is ethically obligated to step down as a judge. His credibility, fairness, competence, commitment to justice, integrity and trustworthiness have all been called into question by the inquiry, as well as the unavoidable fact that he prosecuted an innocent man who went to prison for a quarter of a century, and while he was there, the real murderer may have killed again. The justice system cannot have a judge ruling on people’s lives who has something like that on his record and conscience. I wouldn’t want my fate to rest with such a judge, and as a lawyer, I wouldn’t want my client’s fate to be determined by such a judge either.

From the web site, The Irreverent Lawyer:

As though more corroboration was necessary, there’s the case of Michael Morton, the former grocery store clerk who served almost a quarter century’s worth of a life sentence. The truth will yet out but as of now, it appears Morton should have never been convicted had a prominent prosecutor and now county judge, Ken Anderson, and then prosecutor Mike Davis, now a private practice lawyer, and current District Attorney John Bradley shared potentially exculpatory evidence with the defense – – – as required under Brady v. Maryland 373 U. S. 83.

And finally, from the web site, Lawdiva’s Blog:

We know that in the last ten years, 45 Texas inmates have been exonerated on the basis of DNA evidence and that is something to be grateful for. The notion of innocent men and women being held in confinement for crimes they did not commit is excruciating.

Another inmate joined the ranks of those freed from a Texas jail last week. Michael Morton was convicted of murdering his wife Christine in 1986. He was a grocery store manager who had no criminal record, nonetheless, he was found guilty of beating his wife to death and sentenced to life in prison.

In 2005 Mr. Morton attempted to have evidence tested to determine if DNA was present, namely a blue bandanna found near his home after the murder. For six years the district attorney fought Morton’s attempts based on the advice of the original prosecutor, Ken Anderson, who was now Judge Anderson.

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Prosecutors Enabling Debt Collector Misconduct

Adam Levin: The Alarming Ties Between Debt Collectors and District Attorneys

Consider what’s happening here. The debt collection companies are using the letterhead of the prosecutor’s office to threaten consumers with criminal prosecution and possible jail time. In reality, they’re in no position to back that threat up — but from reading the letter, the consumer has no way to know that. The truth is that in the vast majority of cases, the prosecutor’s office has no idea when these letters are mailed or who is receiving them, and has conducted no investigation to determine whether the claim of unpaid debt is actually true. Thus, the debt collectors are apparently mailing official letters without effective oversight — and often without even having the evidence they would need to prove that the recipients actually owe the alleged debts. In short, no case.

“I would say that roughly 90 percent of the credit card lawsuits are flawed and can’t prove the person owes the debt,” Noach Dear, a civil court judge in Brooklyn who sees up to 100 such cases a day, told the New York Times.

This is, indeed, outrageous. To have prosecuting attorneys renting out their letterhead to private companies at all diminishes their office and, at the end of the day, betrays the public trust. To do this without weighing the merits of each individual case betrays the fundamental American ideal of due process and turns the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” on its head. Finally, to allow private companies to use the power and prestige of public office to coerce consumers, using the fear of criminal charges and imprisonment to bully them into compliance — well, that is so clearly abusive that it’s hard to imagine how anyone could defend it (not that they haven’t tried).

Adam Levin: The Alarming Ties Between Debt Collectors and District Attorneys

Debt collectors have a terrible reputation in this country for misconduct and often direct law breaking. For prosecutors to form an alliance with them, loaning them some of the powers of the state, is simply unconscionable.

I’m not the only one that thinks so – here’s J.F. Quackenbush from the web site, Disinformation:

So here’s the deal, it’s a crime to write a bad check if you know that the bank isn’t going to honor the instrument. But in most states, in order to be convicted the State has to prove that you knew the check was going to bounce when you wrote it. That’s hard which is as it should be, because the crime here is not owing a debt, it’s fraud. We don’t do debtors prisons anymore, and for good reason. Bankruptcy law is explicitly mandated by the Constitution because it has long been understood that not all debts are equal, and sometimes it’s for the best in our society if we just let people off the hook and give them a clean financial slate to start over.

This, of course, drives the vampires of the collection industry, who make money by buying debts for pennies on the dollar and then brutalizing the people who owe those debts who can’t afford to pay them, and in the meantime making all manner of threats and coercive promises to keep those debtors out of bankruptcy so that the vampires can continue to feed.

And here are some more thoughts on the subject from Caveot Emptor, Seeking Justice for Consumers

Prosecutors’ job is to enforce the law. One important part of that job is exercising some discretion over who to prosecute. That’s especially important in bad check cases. People bounce checks all the time, usually unintentionally. That doesn’t make them crimes. So a prosecutor’s job is to sort out the crimes from the accidents. Under the new arrangement, everybody gets contacted by a debt collector, which then demands even more money for a budgeting class — the profit from which goes into the collector’s pocket.

Here are some thoughts from Naked Capitalism

The excuse for this program is that district attorneys’ offices were overwhelmed with merchant requests to go after bounced checks where they were unable to collect the debt and alleged fraud. Um, what about saying “no” unless the amount at issue was significant, say at least a few hundred dollars, or having the merchant provide evidence of intent? Instead, this scheme allows the debt collectors to get a windfall from people who’ve stuffed up on relatively small checks (the two examples in the article were each under $100) as well as contributing to erosion of public faith in the legal system.

Consumer attorneys did succeed in getting one debt collector that engaged in this practice, American Corrective Counseling Services, to file for Chapter 11 in the face of class action suits. But its successor CorrectiveSolutions carries on with the same dubious practices and has “partnerships” with more than 140 district attorneys’ offices.

And here is a comment from Tech Dirt
The DAs office, it appears, is literally selling the use of their stationary. In exchange for letting debt collectors appear both a lot more official and for falsely suggesting that law enforcement is pursuing criminal action, the debt collectors “sell” a “financial accountability” class, from which some of the proceeds get kicked back to the DAs’ offices.
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