GEORGETOWN -- Former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson sat in the defendant's chair Friday, awaiting punishment for his role in prosecuting an innocent man and keeping him behind bars for nearly 25 years.
"Colors seem real bright to me now," Michael Morton told media after taking his first steps as a free man in October 2011.
Sentenced in 1987 to life in prison for his wife Christine's murder, it would take more than two decades before DNA evidence helped overturn his conviction, evidence which Anderson is accused of knowingly covering up and lying about.
"It's inconceivable that this happened, and I really do want to apologize to him and everybody else who this affected," Anderson told media in November 2011. He has steadfastly claimed his own innocence.
"The system failed," he said. "And it shouldn't fail."
Anderson resigned his office of district judge in September, a job he'd held since leaving his post as Williamson County's top prosecutor in 2002. Faced with a civil lawsuit and criminal charges stemming from the Morton case, he accepted a deal to satisfy both issues Friday.
As part of the deal signed off on by District Judge Kelly Moore, Anderson pleaded no contest to a 1987 criminal contempt of court charge for lying about evidence that could have cleared Morton. He's ordered to serve ten days in jail, pay a $500 fine and complete 500 hours of community service over the next five year.
Anderson has also volunteered to resign from the state bar and give up his ability to practice law. As a result of the deal, he will not be charged with any criminal offense.
"It's a good day," Morton, who was present in the courtroom, told media after the hearing. "When it began, when I was asked what I wanted, I said the only thing that I want as a baseline is for Ken Anderson to be off the bench and for him to no longer practice law. And both Of those things have happened and more."
According to Innocent Project attorney Barry Scheck, the "more" will be an independent audit into every case prosecuted by Anderson as well as former Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley.
Scheck told media he hopes the entire process will send a message, while expressing continued frustration with Anderson.
"To this very day, he still wants to somehow say, 'The system went wrong, I did nothing wrong,'" said Scheck. "That is not an example for anybody, and it is frankly disgraceful."
Anderson left without speaking to media. He's ordered to surrender himself to the Williamson County Sheriff's Office by December 2, and will be credited with one day already served.
"Unusual cases, to say the least, might often require an unusual resolution," Moore said as he ended the hearing. The judge explained that the period of time over which the case played out was a complicating factor. He then turned to Morton.
"There is no way anything we could do here today would resolve the tragedy that occurred," Moore told Morton. "The world's a better place because of you. God bless you, sir."