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Rusty Hardin Picked For Prosecutor In Morton Case

Michael Morton hearing on February 10, 2012 at the Williamson Co. Courthouse.
Photo by: Spencer Selvidge/Texas Tribune
Michael Morton hearing on February 10, 2012 at the Williamson Co. Courthouse.

Houston criminal defense lawyer Rusty Hardin will be the special prosecutor in the court of inquiry looking into possible misconduct in the case of Michael Morton, who was wrongfully convicted in 1987 of bludgeoning his wife to death. 

This won't be Hardin's first high-profile case. The former Harris County prosecutor has represented Roger Clemens, J. Howard Marshall's estate in the Anna Nicole Smith lawsuit, and, during the Enron scandal, accounting firm Arthur Andersen. 

Tarrant County state district Judge Louis Sturns will lead a court of inquiry to investigate allegations of criminal prosecutorial misconduct against former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson, who saw to the wrongful murder conviction of Michael Morton. Anderson, who is now a state district judge, has vigorously denied any wrongdoing in his court filings, and has expressed regret over the 25 years that Morton was imprisoned before he was exonerated in December.

Christine Morton was beaten to death in her bed early in the morning on Aug. 13, 1986. Her husband contended during his 1987 trial that his wife’s killer must have entered their home after he left for work at about 5:30 a.m. But Anderson told the jury that Morton, who had no criminal history, beat his wife to death in a perverted rage after she denied him sex.

Mark Alan Norwood, a 57-year-old Bastrop resident, is now facing trial in the murder. DNA testing confirmed last year that Christine Morton's blood was mixed with Norwood's hair on a blue bandana found about 100 yards from their North Austin home, where she was killed. Norwood's lawyer, Russell Hunt Jr., has said that his client is innocent and that he plans to fight the murder charge.

Morton argues through his lawyers that there is probable cause to believe that Anderson should be charged with contempt of court and tampering with official documents. Morton's lawyers allege that Anderson concealed police reports that included a transcript of a telephone conversation between a sheriff’s deputy and Morton’s mother-in-law in which she reported that her 3-year-old grandson had seen a “monster” — who was not his father — attack and kill his mother.

Anderson's lawyers said that the judge in the case only requested a small portion of the police reports be turned over and called the complete report  "nothing more than an artifice, a construct to support a requested result."

Morgan Smith was an editorial intern and columnist at Slate in Washington, D.C., before moving to Austin to enter law school at the University of Texas in 2008. (She has put her degree on hold to join the Tribune's staff.) A native of San Antonio, she has a bachelor's degree in English from Wellesley College.
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