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Thread: Supreme Court rejects damages for innocent man who spent 14 years on death row

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    Supreme Court rejects damages for innocent man who spent 14 years on death row

    This is a blatant miscarriage of justice. It would be different if this was one of those cases were evidence was later found and the man was exonerated and they said no to the 14 million. However the DA intentionally hid evidence. So this is not a case of just a DA doing his job. If a suspect purposely hid or destroyed evidence he would be charged with a crime, but yet no criminal charges are brought against a DA who did. The SC got it wrong this time. Yes I am a firm believer in the death penalty and this story in no shape or form changes my mind on the death penalty other than the fact there should be stronger evidence required for a death penalty and the strength of that evidence should determine how many appeals someone on death row gets.


    Supreme Court: No damages for man wrongly sent to death row - latimes.com

    In 1999, when all his appeals had failed on his conviction for the murder of a hotel executive, Thompson was scheduled to be put to death. But a private investigator hired by his lawyer found a blood test in the police lab that showed the man wanted for a related carjacking had type B blood, while Thompson's was type O.

    Thompson had been charged with and convicted of an attempted carjacking near the Superdome as a prelude to charging him with the unsolved murder of a hotel executive.

    The newly revealed blood test spared Thompson's life, and a judge ordered a new trial on the murder charge that had sent him to death row. His new defense lawyers found other evidence that had been hidden, including eyewitnesses reports. Bystanders reported seeing a man who was 6 feet tall with close-cropped hair running away holding a gun. Thompson was 5 feet 8 and had a bushy Afro.

    With the new eyewitness reports and other evidence that pointed to another man as the killer, Thompson was quickly acquitted of all the charges in a second trial. He won $14 million in damages in a civil suit against the district attorney.
    Last edited by jamesrage; 03-30-11 at 07:07 PM.
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    Re: Supreme Court rejects damages for innocent man who spent 14 years on death row

    In rejecting the judgment, Justice Thomas described the case as a "single incident" in which mistakes were made. He said Thompson did not prove a pattern of similar violations that would justify holding the city's government liable for the wrongdoing. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined to form the majority.

    However, Thompson's lawyers showed that at least four prosecutors knew about the hidden blood test. They also showed evidence of other, similar cases in New Orleans in which key evidence was concealed from defense lawyers.
    Without more details it is really impossible for me to judge, but it would have at least been hard to not rule for this poor guy. I will say though that the facts are in dispute as to whether it was poor handling or actual intentional misconduct, and without proof of misconduct, the DA's office should not be liable for damages. In the end I am very conflicted on this.
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    Re: Supreme Court rejects damages for innocent man who spent 14 years on death row

    The decision came down to whether the DA deliberately allowed the prosecutors to withhold evidence, which the court ruled he didn't. IMO that's a weird angle to attack this from, and it says to me that somewhere along the lines this guy's lawyers screwed up and allowed the scope of the case to get narrow and off-target. I haven't seen anything convincing me that the court ruled badly, just that the suit was worded badly. It's akin to having somebody get sickened when a factory worker puts rat poison into a food product, then turning around and suing the company's CEO for failing to make sure the workers didn't poison the food. Something egregious and malicious clearly did occur, but not the specific thing that the plaintiff was suing over.

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    Re: Supreme Court rejects damages for innocent man who spent 14 years on death row

    Man.

    I just don't know. FOURTEEN YEARS in prison, on death row... and clearly they had the wrong man. The DA's office appeared to be more intrested in a conviction than in justice.

    That guy will NEVER get those 14 years back. What did he lose? He may well have lost a house; may have missed seeing his children grow up; may have lost a spouse. Certainly he's out 14 years of lost wages, as well as lost promotions, opportunities and just plain LIFE.

    Yeah, I know I'm mostly conservative... but I can't help but think that this guy deserves something for rotting in prison for 14 years when he was clearly innocent of these charges. Lost wages, adjusted for inflation, at a minimum.

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    Re: Supreme Court rejects damages for innocent man who spent 14 years on death row

    I think the DA should spend 14 years in prison.

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    Re: Supreme Court rejects damages for innocent man who spent 14 years on death row

    Quote Originally Posted by Goshin View Post
    Man.

    I just don't know. FOURTEEN YEARS in prison, on death row... and clearly they had the wrong man. The DA's office appeared to be more intrested in a conviction than in justice.

    That guy will NEVER get those 14 years back. What did he lose? He may well have lost a house; may have missed seeing his children grow up; may have lost a spouse. Certainly he's out 14 years of lost wages, as well as lost promotions, opportunities and just plain LIFE.

    Yeah, I know I'm mostly conservative... but I can't help but think that this guy deserves something for rotting in prison for 14 years when he was clearly innocent of these charges. Lost wages, adjusted for inflation, at a minimum.
    I tend to agree with you.

    On the one hand, I think that trying to judge the prosecutor from the information we have is very difficult, and, SCOTUS probably got it right. On the other hand, the guy did spend 14 years in jail. Our justice system isn't perfect. Mistakes happen. But, damn it! There are avenues to fix mistakes. And he ended up being set free.

    Now what's that worth?? Let's give the guy $100,000 a year -- that's $1.4 million. Plus $1.4 million for the loss of his freedom. = $2.8 million. $14 million?? Maybe if he'd have sued for a more realistic number, it wouldn't have been appealed.

    Frankly? This kind of tort reform would be a good idea. Address the issue of wrongful conviction/imprisonment. Dang! I think that's a great idea. Come up with a formula to try to compensate someone for this wrong and make it automatic. Lawyers wouldn't like it, but, honestly? I think it's a good idea.
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    Re: Supreme Court rejects damages for innocent man who spent 14 years on death row

    Quote Originally Posted by Redress View Post
    Without more details it is really impossible for me to judge, but it would have at least been hard to not rule for this poor guy. I will say though that the facts are in dispute as to whether it was poor handling or actual intentional misconduct, and without proof of misconduct, the DA's office should not be liable for damages. In the end I am very conflicted on this.
    No the DA should be put in a room with Thompson, and Thompson given permission to kick his ass.
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    Re: Supreme Court rejects damages for innocent man who spent 14 years on death row

    Quote Originally Posted by Goshin View Post
    Man.

    I just don't know. FOURTEEN YEARS in prison, on death row... and clearly they had the wrong man. The DA's office appeared to be more intrested in a conviction than in justice.

    That guy will NEVER get those 14 years back. What did he lose? He may well have lost a house; may have missed seeing his children grow up; may have lost a spouse. Certainly he's out 14 years of lost wages, as well as lost promotions, opportunities and just plain LIFE.

    Yeah, I know I'm mostly conservative... but I can't help but think that this guy deserves something for rotting in prison for 14 years when he was clearly innocent of these charges. Lost wages, adjusted for inflation, at a minimum.
    That's why we need to execute prisoners quicker! If we killed him after 2 years, we wouldn't be worrying about it. Right?
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    Re: Supreme Court rejects damages for innocent man who spent 14 years on death row

    Quote Originally Posted by danarhea View Post
    No the DA should be put in a room with Thompson, and Thompson given permission to kick his ass.
    I would support this, and one by one each and every prosecutor involved in withholding evidence. The article does not make clear if they still have jobs, but if there is any justice in the world, if they do it is flipping burgers.

    The problem here as I see it is the law. The ruling is not that these folks are not scum of the earth, but whether, without misconduct, it is legal to get damages from the city. My heart wants this guy to get 14 million for every single year he was in prison, but my mind knows that the law is what it is, and if the law does not allow for damages, then he cannot get them.

    Note: I am, in saying this, saying that I back the conservative wing of the supreme court in this ruling. It's galling, and I am basing my comments on an incomplete knowledge of the applicable laws and the facts of the case, but as presented, the court probably did right according to the law, and that is what we have to expect from the courts.
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    Re: Supreme Court rejects damages for innocent man who spent 14 years on death row

    Quote Originally Posted by Redress View Post
    Note: I am, in saying this, saying that I back the conservative wing of the supreme court in this ruling. It's galling, and I am basing my comments on an incomplete knowledge of the applicable laws and the facts of the case, but as presented, the court probably did right according to the law, and that is what we have to expect from the courts.
    How about the fact that a decision like this encourages prosecutorial misconduct?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ginsberg's dissent in Connick v. Thompson
    What happened here, the Court’s opinion obscures, was
    no momentary oversight, no single incident of a lone offi-
    cer’s misconduct. Instead, the evidence demonstrated that
    misperception and disregard of Brady’s disclosure re-
    quirements were pervasive in Orleans Parish. That evi-
    dence, I would hold, established persistent, deliberately
    indifferent conduct for which the District Attorney’s Office
    bears responsibility under 1983.
    I dissent from the Court’s judgment mindful that Brady
    violations, as this case illustrates, are not easily detected.
    But for a chance discovery made by a defense team inves-
    tigator weeks before Thompson’s scheduled execution, the
    evidence that led to his exoneration might have remained
    under wraps. The prosecutorial concealment Thompson
    encountered, however, is bound to be repeated unless
    municipal agencies bear responsibility—made tangible by
    1983 liability—for adequately conveying what Brady
    requires and for monitoring staff compliance.
    Connick v. Thompson 563 U.*S. ____ :: Volume 563 :: Docket Number 09-571 :: 2011 :: Dissent :: US Supreme Court Cases from Justia & Oyez
    Last edited by Guy Incognito; 03-30-11 at 09:39 PM.

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