Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Prosecuting Attorneys Get ANOTHER Free Pass....

Supreme Court Grants Even Greater Immunity for Prosecutors

Innocence Network Letter from 19 Exonerees Demands Accountability

On March 29, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Connick v. Thompson that the Orleans Parish Attorney does not have to pay John Thompson the $14 million he was awarded in a lawsuit against the Parish Attorney’s Office for prosecutorial misconduct. Thompson was wrongfully imprisoned for 18 years - 14 on death row. In response to the decision, the Innocence Network released a letter signed by 19 innocent people who were wrongfully convicted, in part, because of the bad acts of prosecutors.

The letter, which was addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder and the Presidents of the National District Attorneys Association and the National Association of Attorneys Generals, demands to know what systems they intend to put in place to ensure that innocent people don’t fall victim to overzealous prosecutors.

Citing a recent report by the Northern California Innocence Project, the letter notes that prosecutors are rarely disciplined for their misdeeds. The report found that prosecutors were guilty of misconduct in California 707 times from 1997 to 2009, yet were disciplined only 7 times. The letter also points to a 2010 USA Today investigation, that documented 201 instances where federal prosecutors violated laws or ethics rules since 1997, yet only one of those prosecutors was suspended from practicing law - and that was only for one year.

"Misconduct was found in the cases of all the innocent people who signed onto this letter, yet none of the prosecutors involved were disciplined in any way," said Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project. "How many lives are going to be destroyed before we realize that prosecutors are no different than any other professionals? There are good ones and there are bad ones, and we need systems in place to stop the bad ones."

A copy of the letter, which was also sent to the District Attorney offices in the counties where the signers were originally prosecuted, is available here.

Learn more by reading a New York Times op-ed by John Thompson on this decision.

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