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Court Questions $14 Million Judgment in Unjust Prosecution - USATODAY

Court Questions $14 Million Judgment in Unjust Prosecution - USATODAY

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10/7/10 2:44 AMCourt questions $14 million judgment in unjust prosecution - USATODAY.comPage 1 of 3http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/judicial/2010-10-06-prosecutors_N.htm
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By Jennifer S. Altman for USATODAYJohn Thompson was on death row for more than adecade before his lawyers discovered that the NewOrleans prosecutors who puthim on trial had illegallyconcealed evidence that could help prove hisinnocence.
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Court questions $14 million judgment inunjust prosecution
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ByBrad Heath, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Supreme Court justices questioned Wednesdaywhether additional training would haveprevented the constitutional violationsthat put a New Orleans man on deathrow for a murder he didn't commit.The man, John Thompson, wasconvicted of a 1984 murder and aseparate carjacking. He was set free18 years later after his lawyersdiscovered that the New Orleansprosecutors who put him on trial haddeliberately concealed evidence — ablood sample taken at the scene of thecarjacking — that could have provedhisinnocence.Once he was free, Thompson sued the Orleans Parishdistrict attorney's office, alleging that his rights were violated because prosecutors were poorly trained. Hewon a $14 million judgment from a jury. The district attorney's office appealed to the Supreme Court.During oral arguments, several of the justices questioned Thompson's lawyer about exactly what former district attorney Harry Connick Sr. — father of singer Harry Connick Jr.— should have done to prevent theviolations.
JOHN THOMPSON CASE:
Prosecuting offices' immunity tested
EXPLORE CASES:
Investigatethe misconduct cases we ID'd
JUSTICE IN BALANCE:
Prosecutors' conduct can tip the scales
FULL COVERAGE:
Federal prosecutors seriesJusticeSamuel Alitoasked Thompson's attorney, Gordon Cooney, what training he would provide if hewere in charge of the district attorney's office. Chief JusticeJohn Robertsasked whether officials alsoshould be required to train prosecutors about the constitutional rules that limit their closing argumentsduring criminal trials or how to comply with other rules."Our course is expanding," JusticeAnthony Kennedyquipped, adding that if prosecutors violatedThompson's rights intentionally, no training would have stopped them.JusticeSonia Sotomayor , herself a former prosecutor in New York, asked whether an hour of annualtraining would be enough. "Could you please state in simple terms to me what they failed to train theseprosecutors to do?" she said.Cooney struggled to answer. He said that at a minimum, prosecutors should be taught that they must telldefendants about the existence of physical evidence that could conclusively prove their innocence. He saidprosecutors in the New Orleans office "all knew what not to produce. What they didn't know was what toproduce."The court has ruled before that individual prosecutors cannot be sued for courtroom violations like those inThompson's trial. It left open the possibility that prosecutors' offices could be sued for violations caused byofficial policies or a lack of training.The Supreme Court held almost 50 years ago in a case called
Brady v. Maryland 
that prosecutors must telldefendants about evidence that points toward their innocence. The attorney representing the districtattorney's office, Kyle Duncan, said it is "impossible to determine beforehand exactly why a Brady violationwill occur, and what specific training measures would prevent it from occurring."Thompson was charged with the 1984 killing of a New Orleans hotel executive and an armed carjackingoutside the Louisiana Superdome. Juries convicted him of both crimes, and he was sentenced to beexecuted for the murder.But a month before Thompson was scheduled to be executed in 1999, an investigator working for hislawyers found a copy of a crime lab report about blood evidence that police had found at the scene of thecarjacking. The blood type was B; Thompson was type O. Prosecutors in New Orleans had known aboutthe report before his trial and hid it from Thompson and his attorneys.As a result, a court threw out the carjacking charge. Thompson was retried for the murder in 2003, andwas acquitted.The abuses that helped put him in prison are similar to violations USA TODAY uncovered in aninvestigation of misconduct by federal prosecutors. The newspaper documented 201 cases since 1997 inwhich federal judges found that prosecutors had violated laws or ethics rules.Among the violations USA TODAY identified, failing to turn over evidence favorable to defendants was themost common.
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10/7/10 2:44 AMCourt questions $14 million judgment in unjust prosecution - USATODAY.comPage 2 of 3http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/judicial/2010-10-06-prosecutors_N.htm
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12m ago
The real JOKE is the Supreme Court has already ruled previously that Prosecutors areprotected even if they commit fraud or criminal acts themselves in a prosecution.Why do regular people have any faith whatsoever in this court ?
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16m ago
The current Conservative Block on the Supreme Court will ensure that the courts will never beheld accountable !
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19m ago
The courts are never going to hold the courts ACCOUNTABLE. Just everyone else !
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43m ago
The prosecutors should be tried and sent to jail for the time he served.
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1h 15m ago
this is a very deep issue one of a paramount importance the prosecutors argue they musthave leverage to push tough cases, yet the defendant was innocent and the prosecutor commited fraud, we are not addressing the issues should the prosecutor be able andencouraged to prosecute when he / she has commited a case of fraud by hiding evidence or ignoring facts, this is either going to be a decision that prosecutors have the responsibility of prosecuting from facts or they will be punished for committing Fraud,
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2h 54m ago
Vonnie932 (1 friends, send message) wrote: 2h 25m agoWhat happened to Justice for all. The law is for those who can pay for American law. What acountry! We can only be a world leader when we live to fulfill the consitiution and rights for allAmericans.===============Thompson was a drug dealer convicted of Armed Robbery, who was found possessing themurdered man's stolen gold jewelry, possessing the murder weapon, there was a eye witnessof Thompson killing the man, and Thompson failed to have a single alibi/story/witness of where he was at the time of the crime.Any jury in America would have convicted him...You show me a high-crime, high drug use, high unemployed, high broken family, high welfarepopulation, and I'll show you a longtime, entrenched Democrat governance.... New Orleans,
Not guilty, but stuck with big bills, damaged career 
(USATODAY.com in News)
Prosecutors' conduct can tip the scales
(USATODAY.com in News)
4 New Orleans officers, 2 ex-cops charged in Katrina bridge shootings
(USATODAY.com in OnDeadline)
Lab mistakes revive questions about murder of Jordan's father 
(USATODAY.com in Sports)
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