Ken Anderson was a prosecutor in Texas (motto: "execute em all and let the good lord sort it out") who intentionally withheld exculpatory evidence and sent Michael Morton to jail in 1987 for a murder he didn't commit.
In 2011 Morton was freed and exonerated after DNA conclusively proved he didn't beat his wife to death. In the same courthouse where Anderson wrecked Morton's life, and the life of Morton's young son who saw his father wrongfully convicted for killing his mom, Anderson accepted a plea offer to ten days jail and a $500.00 fine.
That's what sending a man to prison for twenty-five years for a crime he didn't commit is worth in Texas. Not even one day for every agonizing year Morton served. And a fine of twenty bucks a year. That's it. Yes Anderson was disbarred, but the price he paid for his criminal conduct is outrageously beyond the pale. Not even a year of probation. Anderson will be done with his sentence before Thanksgiving.
In a state that likes, no make that loves, to send a message about getting tough on crime, what message does this send to lawyers who believe they are above the law?
Don't mess with Texas? Ha! Go right ahead and mess with Texas, as long as you are a lawyer sending criminals- real or imagined- to prison.
AN APOLOGY TO OUR CIVIL COLLEAGUES:
Longtime and careful readers of our blog know that in our view, it's hard to distinguish who we have less respect for: the hardworking jurist who puts in three tough hours denying motions before getting some lunch, hitting the golf course or the nail salon (or both) or the civil suits, creeping around, filing summary judgment motions, billing by the second, and generally being a pimple on the butt of a civilized society.
We were wrong.
Civil lawyers can do some good. They can see a problem, a group of poor and innocent individuals being taken advantage of by a large and unfeeling corporation, and they can swoop in and put an end to this injustice.
Like the class action case against RCI Hospitality Holdings, which happens to own Rick's Cabaret in NYC. The dancer/entertainers were not being paid as employees, but as independent contractors, who were forced to split their tips with the house, and other employees of the house, and after a hard night of dancing and being leered at by unattractive and impaired middle-aged men caught in a mid-life crisis, sometimes actually owed the house money.
Good for them! RCI got hit with a sweet ten million for the dancers.
Admittedly, we are not entirely familiar with this premise of an establishment where nubile young women dance for men. Must be a NYC thing. We are not as worldly as we sometimes appear to be.
But this seems like the type of case, purely because of the underdog nature of the plaintiffs, that given the opportunity, we might have enjoyed working on, despite the civil nature of the proceedings.
There's aways next time.
Enjoy the week. See You In Court.
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