In 2013 Texas (Williamson County) District Attorney Ken Anderson served a 10 day jail sentence for prosecutorial misconduct. Quoting https://innocenceproject.org/news/ken-anderson-michael-morton-prosecutorial-misconduct-jail/ :

Mr. Anderson’s misconduct came to light when, in the course of the post-conviction DNA litigation that ultimately led to Mr. Morton’s freedom, his legal team filed a public information act request for documents from his trial. They discovered that evidence of Michael’s innocence, that could have prevented his wrongful conviction, had been concealed from his defense at his original trial in 1987.

Overall this sounds very similar to the Supreme Court case of Imbler v. Pachtman, which was heard in 1976. Quoting the wikipedia article on that case:

Imbler used the new evidence to successfully free himself, then brought up a civil suit alleging that Pachtman had withheld evidence. The suit, however, was dismissed on the grounds that Pachtman had prosecutorial immunity, a finding which the Supreme Court affirmed.

My question is... based on the precedent set by Imbler v. Pachtman why did Ken Anderson serve any jail time at all?


2 Answers 2


Imbler says that a prosecutor is immune from civil damages in suits brought under Section 1983.

The Court made a point of noting that it was not shielding protectors from criminal penalties:

We emphasize that the immunity of prosecutors from liability in suits under § 1983 does not leave the public powerless to deter misconduct or to punish that which occurs. This Court has never suggested that the policy considerations which compel civil immunity for certain governmental officials also place them beyond the reach of the criminal law. Even judges, cloaked with absolute civil immunity for centuries, could be punished criminally for willful deprivations of constitutional rights on the strength of 18 U.S.C. § 242, the criminal analog of § 1983. The prosecutor would fare no better for his willful acts.

  • Interesting, since in many ways civil liability is more generous than criminal, such as the lower standard of proof.
    – Barmar
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 14:39
  • 2
    Agreed. I think the idea was basically that there would be a flood of civil cases, while criminal prosecutions would be less frequent. I'd argue that that premise better supports the opposite conclusion, but I'm not a bootlicking Supreme Court justice.
    – bdb484
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 14:49

The main reason was that there was no trial or argumentation, he negotiated a light sentence for entering a plea of nolo contendere to a charge of criminal contempt. The holding in Imbler v. Pahctman was that "A state prosecuting attorney who, as here, acted within the scope of his duties in initiating and pursuing a criminal prosecution and in presenting the State's case, is absolutely immune from a civil suit for damages under §1983 for alleged deprivations of the accused's constitutional rights", which does not render a prosecutor immune to criminal prosecution.

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