The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments this morning in the case of Smith v. Cain, in which a New Orleans man is seeking a new trial because prosecutors failed to hand over key evidence.
In the case, Juan Smith argues that he was convicted of murders based on statements from an unreliable witness. Prosecutors didn’t give Smith’s lawyers documents that showed the witness’ inconsistent statements.
The Associated Press reported that several justices seemed surprised to hear a New Orleans prosecutor argue that the office wasn’t required to turn over the evidence.
“Surely it should have been turned over,” Justice Antonin Scalia said at one point. “Why don’t you give that up?”
Smith v. Cain
reaches the court on the heels of another Louisiana prosecutorial misconduct case. In
Connick v. Thompson
, the court ruled 5-4 to strip exoneree John Thompson of a $14 million civil court award, saying the prosecutor’s office could not be held liable for failing to properly train prosecutors on their ethical obligations.
Last month, Thompson joined with the Innocence Project and partner organizations to launch the Prosecutorial
Oversight campaign, a national tour and dialogue to address issues of prosecutorial misconduct.
Visit the campaign website to join the dialogue today