by: David Harris-Gershon on November 9th, 2013 | 4 Comments »
Allow me to begin with a personal anecdote: I’m not a religious man. However, I do teach Jewish texts to middle school students, and this week we happened to critically analyze the 10 Commandments. These students, who understand that significant portions of America’s legal code are influenced by Judeo-Christian ethical principles, were particularly enamored by one of the commandments:
Don’t bear false witness (in a court of law) against your neighbor.
לֹא תַעֲנֶה בְרֵעֲךָ עֵד שָׁקֶר
Why, they asked, is this so important? How does this have the stature of, say, don’t murder or don’t steal?
The collective answer to which we arrived: because falsely bringing evidence, or withholding evidence, against someone in a trial that leads to his or her conviction is akin to stealing and murder. In essence, their life is being taken from them, the years stolen, their potential killed.
Given the severity of such an action, it has always been unconscionable that in this country, those judges and prosecutors who have willingly participated in the wrongful conviction of innocent Americans have rarely been punished, and have never been jailed, for their actions.
Yesterday, for the first time, that changed:
Today in Texas, former prosecutor and judge Ken Anderson pled guilty to intentionally failing to disclose evidence in a case that sent an innocent man, Michael Morton, to prison for the murder of his wife. When trying the case as a prosecutor, Anderson possessed evidence that may have cleared Morton, including statements from the crime’s only eyewitness that Morton wasn’t the culprit. Anderson sat on this evidence, and then watched Morton get convicted. While Morton remained in prison for the next 25 years, Anderson’s career flourished, and he eventually became a judge.
In today’s deal, Anderson pled to criminal contempt, and will have to give up his law license, perform 500 hours of community service, and spend 10 days in jail. Anderson had already resigned in September from his position on the Texas bench.