Last week, the Innocence Blog wrote about how the
U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 2007 decision that awarded $14 million in damages to Louisiana exoneree John Thompson
. On Friday,
Slate.com’s Dalia Lithwick examined the Supreme Court’s conclusion
, described it as “pitiless and scornful” and contends that both opinions essentially retry the case while ignoring the District Attorney’s office own admissions of failure.
Both parties to this case have long agreed that an injustice had been done. [Former District Attorney Harry] Connick himself conceded that there had been a Brady violation, yet Scalia finds none. Everyone else concedes that egregious mistakes were made. Scalia struggles to rehabilitate them all.
In the article, Lithwhick writes that in the majority and consenting opinions written by Thomas and Scalia, respectively, they show “disregard for the facts of Thompson’s thrashed life and near-death emerges as a moral flat line.” Lithwick also notes that Scalia’s opinion argues that the mistake can be pegged to one “miscreant prosecutor” and that the municipality should not be held accountable for a solitary
violation, but that in doing so he ignores not only the trial record but the constitutional question at hand thereby opening the door for more prosecutorial misconduct.
…[B]y all-but-immunizing Connick for the conduct of his subordinates, the court has created a perfect Catch-22, since the courts already give prosecutors absolute immunity for their actions as prosecutors (though they may still be liable for their conduct as administrators or investigators). By immunizing their bosses as well, the court has guaranteed that nobody can be held responsible for even the most shocking civil rights violations.
Misconduct by government officials is a reality in the criminal justice system, but there are ways alleviate and hopefully solve the problem, including the creation of
criminal justice reform commissions
. Find out of if your state has a reform commission