I wish this were surprising:
A bitterly divided Supreme Court on Tuesday tossed out a jury verdict won by a New Orleans man who spent 14 years on death row and came within weeks of execution because prosecutors had hidden a blood test and other evidence that would have proven his innocence.
The 5-4 decision delivered by Justice Clarence Thomas shielded the New Orleans district attorney’s office from being held liable for the mistakes of its prosecutors. The evidence of their misconduct did not prove “deliberate indifference” on the part of then-Dist. Atty. Harry Connick Sr., Thomas said.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg emphasized her disapproval by reading her dissent in the courtroom, saying the court was shielding a city and its prosecutors from “flagrant” misconduct that nearly cost an innocent man his life.
“John Thompson spent 14 years isolated on death row before the truth came to light,” she said. He was innocent of the crimes that sent him to prison and prosecutors had “dishonored” their obligation to present the true facts to the jury, she said.
In the past, the high court has absolved trial prosecutors from any and all liability for the cases they bring to court. The key issue in the case of Connick vs. John Thompson was whether the district attorney could be held liable for a pattern of wrongdoing in his office and for his failure to see to it that his prosecutors followed the law.
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.
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.
Of course, you are just a partisan hater and “court-buster-cowboy” when you point out the court is packed with right-wing hacks and all these decisions are pretty much predetermined along partisan lines.
Under the Aurora Freeway
Does this shield the prosecutors from criminal liability as well? I’d like to see them do some time…. just realized that the prosecutor in question is none other than the father of noted easy listening impressario, Harry Connick Jr.
Since our current overlords have decided that the rule of law is but a quaint relic of the past I trust they will have enough dignity not to beg for mercy when they eventually draw the short end of the stick in their little Might Makes Right game.
Jesus, when the fuck did your skin get so thin?
This kind of stuff makes me want to throw up.
@4tehlulz: Not skin thin, just like poking the bear.
@4tehlulz: Of course, I haven’t practiced law for 23 years, so I’m kind of just an asshole.
No good can come of anything that goes before that court as it is currently composed.
Hey, what’s the Beef here? This is how the free markets work in prosecutin’ and shit.
Next time maybe the accused will do his research and pick a better prosecutor who won’t withhold evidence.
@John Cole: Fair enough.
Fun fact: New Orleans DA Harry Connick, Sr. is the father of noted musician Harry Connick, Jr.
In rejecting the judgment, Justice Thomas described the case as a “single incident” in which mistakes were made.
There’s that passive voice again. Those mistakes always make themselves, don’t they?
“Mistakes were made.” But this is actually is the reasonable, Brooksian interpretation. Scalia wrote a concurrence saying there were no constitutional violations in this case.
Me too. Instead it’s depressing and infuriating.
I provided a link on this yesterday and read the opinions.
As the story goes, Deegan (the bad prosecuter), deliberately withheld the info and Thomas et al do not consider that a “Brady” violation. Scalia argued separately that you would have to believe additional education on Brady would have made them better lawyers, when they were actually flagrently abusing the law.
In Soviet Russia, bloggers troll commenters.
In DC cheating on tests–blood or standardized–is doing the wrong this for the right reasons, so acceptable.
Incoherent Dennis SGMM
The reason that there should be no punishment for those who concealed evidence and thereby stole fourteen years of a man’s life as well as put him in line for execution is that he had “a bushy afro.” Clearly, he must be guilty of something.
Good heavens. All this assholery just for lil ole me? And here I was feeling unappreciated.
I also wish this were surprising.
I spent a number of years working on pro bono death cases, but I had to quit when I had a family. I didn’t want my kids to have a despondent, frazzled basket-case for a dad.
You really have to see the quality of justice poor people get in this country to believe it. I used to think it was a southern thing, but then I worked on a Philadelphia case that had a level of skullduggery from the police, prosecutors, and medical examiner that was worse than anything I’d seen in Texas.
I don’t think it’s true of all prosecutorial offices and police departments, but many have a culture that drives out anyone with emotional maturity and a sense of fairness.
Remember, that Obama = Bush, just like it didn’t matter that Bush won in 2000 because Gore would have been just like him. Or so says some so-called “progressives”
I keep on thinking about Robert Bork and the fall from the stand at the Yale(Harvard?) Club where he sued them for emotional distress etc. etc. etc. stuff that he was against when he was on the bench. Yeah, maybe something like that will happen to these pricks. I heard Scalia got a traffic ticket for an accident the other day….
So, we’ve got people on death row that have the wrong blood type? Fuck, we’ve been typing blood for over a century.
How about a federal law – nobody can go on death row without an independent blood test and DNA test if there is blood or DNA evidence. They must be independently retested every year.
It wouldn’t be expensive since there really are very few people on death row, and if there was an error, it’d show up in a hurry.
When Thomas delivered this ruling did he actually speak? He’s famous for never saying anything in court.
Justice Thomas added, “With notably rare exceptions, the New Orleans District Attorney’s Office respects the rules of evidence.”
When the prosecutors in the cited case have a years-long records of GROSS, malicious and conscious malfeasance, and the Supreme Court says “mistakes were made, the end”, well, that’s not going to go well for the rule of law.
actually, Cole, I must say this is a poor choice of a case to use as a tool to express hostility for someone.
Because the fact is, you’re still full of shit in your oversimplifications about the Supreme Court — but I’m certainly not going to argue that point over something this tragic.
In the past, Mad Dog Scalia has written that as long as the proper process is followed, then it doesn’t matter whether a person is factually innocent.
Here, apparently, any semblance of due process is irrelevant.
This issue should, but probably will not, be brought up during the presidential primaries and presidential debates. I would like to hear whether the GOP would go on record as saying that these are the kind of justices they want on the Supreme Court.
And think of all right-wing hacks planted around the country over the last thirty years. I’ll be stunned if Walmart doesn’t win its suit.
Incoherent Dennis SGMM
What are a few “notably rare exceptions” among friends? I mean, shit, we all went to law school and studied really hard and everything so why in the world should we hold the prosecutors accountable?
Why, with notably rare exceptions, the modern Supreme Court has been a model of jurisprudence!
This kind of shit is exactly why I stopped practicing criminal defense law. The game is rigged, the system is a cruel joke. If the police don’t fuck you or the prosecutors don’t fuck you, the judges surely will. Due process is a hollow lie in this country.
Incoherent Dennis SGMM
Hold your horses! The smartest person in the world has delivered her judgement. Thread over, man.
What we need to do is spend more time organizing rallies for Bradley Manning. That’ll fix it.
@Incoherent Dennis SGMM:
eat shit, idjit.
Jesus, I just read his concurrence and that is what he argues.
Didn’t we just have a thread on this? With notably rare exceptions (such as the prosecutor withholding evidence he knew was exculpatory), the New Orleans District Attorney’s office handled this prosecution in an entirely ethical and constitutional manner.
ETA: Because this comment took so long to write, I am now the 25th person to make the notably rare exceptions joke.
Funny, they get the unvocal Clarence Thomas to do the reading. Is that Uncleing over?
Sorry. I’ve got too many of my own clients rotting in jail cells to give a crap about that fellow.
This topic is not the slightest bit funny to me. I can’t even snark it.
I really appreciate that flagrantly abusing the law is a reason for reversal. This goes hat in hand with the Walmart decision that Walmart screwed over so many people the resultant class is too large to have a case.
The lesson once again is when you break the law do it big, do it with gusto. Otherwise, you might get found guilty of something.
I swear, we had better spit ball wars in junior high. This is not the part of my childhood I come to BJ to relive.
It is only proper that cross-hair… I mean surveyors marks – be put on these so-called justices pictures with captions like lock and load for a new supreme court. No one could ever think that ill intent was meant – what asswipes and dick heads; these dumb fuckers woun’t know justice if it bit them in the ass (which is their heads); so we have a fascist skin head, an uncle tom, a corporate shrill and a brain dead monkey as chief justice forming a throw-back confederate level court that makes Italian brown shirts truly look like nice people – how else would such an asswipe court rule but like this?
Well, if “deliberate indifference” is the standard, then I think this is the right decision. It isn’t indifference to hide evidence, it is malevolence.
“Thomas wrote the opinion” is a special kind of awful.
Comes to mind: The OPR Report tried to go after Yoo and Bybee using Oakland Cannabis, which Thomas wrote. Yoo failed to cite Oakland Cannabis, although Thomas put things in there about when Congress has allowed the necessity defense. Margolis pointed out that this whole thing is irrelevant because the plaintiffs were claiming medical necessity and Congress has decided that marijuana has no legitimate medical use. That’s in the opinion.
edted because the SCOTUs is part of our justice system, and I just walked int.
I have the privilege of knowing John Thompson (J.T.). He and his wife are terrific people, and J.T. runs programs for exonerated prisoners (unlike my organization, which only works with exonerated death row prisoners: http://www.witnesstoinnocence.org). His website is http://www.r-a-e.org/home
I talked with J.T. this morning, and he is going to pursue other legal avenues for restitution, and told me he is doing this to get justice for others who have been exonerated but received no justice or compensation for the years they spent on death row for a crime they did not commit. He is also working on expanding his project to other states. Consider dropping a dime on his org. in protest of this miscarriage of injustice, and thanks for writing about this, John!
Does their ‘justification’ even pass the small test?
The wrongly imprisoned guy can’t claim there was any pattern of bad behaviour in the DA’s office because the Supreme Court looked at clear evidence of a pattern of bad behaviour and said “If we say it’s not there. it’s not there”?
Incoherent Dennis SGMM
No worries kid, you’ve just crawled up your own asshole and decided that you’re in the center of the universe. It happens. We’ll still be here for you once you’ve driven away everyone whom you profess to care about.
And, your reply was a model of the thoughtfulness and sharp reasoning that characterizes most of your posts.
When John claims to know anything about SCOTUS, I will get upset that he wrote one post on autopilot. Sheesh.
Barb (formerly Gex)
I can see where one might go on a tangent and attack people who perform that worthless symbolic protesting over Manning.
Is this where Cole and all his toadies gang up on eemom, beginning with the blog owner starting the shit in a thread post. That is entirely fucked up, yes it is.
I know this would never happen, but part of me wishes that every private criminal defense attorney and public defender in America would go on strike to protest the gradual erosion of Constitutional rights that threatens to make the role of legal representation for defendants little more than service as a figurehead for a kangaroo court lynch mob.
At this point in American history, probably the best place for an attorney to go to practice actual criminal defense is the prosecutor’s office. Assuming prosecutorial discretion still exists in some of those places, one could occasionally dismiss a case that deserves to be dismissed instead of forcing the defendant to take it all the way to trial for an acquittal just to prove a point; and one might even hand over all of the exculpatory evidence to defense counsel during discovery now and then.
@Incoherent Dennis SGMM:
Then let me reiterate and expound upon it. Eat shit, you self-righteous twat.
@eemom: Amazing – you can’t defend your point so you just call people names. Try defending your points if you have any and being foul mouth does not prove anything except that you are too immature to post with people of average knowledge or else know so little, you are far out of your league and must revert to this behavior. So why post and prove this to everyone here?
Incoherent Dennis SGMM
Ooo, ya’ got me. I’m blinded by your rhetorical brilliance.
Do you actually ever win any of your cases? Looks to me like you go off the rails pretty easily.
@Mark S.: I believe Justice Thomas’s picture is in the dictionary next to “mistakes were made.”
Bad Faith Exception to Prosecutorial Immunity for Brady Violations. (PDF)
Imbler v Pachtman, read it and weep
Y’all seem to think courts should be different than the thin blue line of Police Departments. They protect their own.
Seriously? Did you really want to call him a c#nt but “compromise” with this?
oh, go protest a nuclear power plant.
I defend my points when they’re argued against by people who don’t START with personal attacks. That would exclude Dennis the Simple Minded.
I think that was Eddie Izzard’s advice to dictators.
I’m just trying to beat the sexist rap by applying the term to a (presumed) male.
Incoherent Dennis SGMM
What did I do wrong, other than reading you like the short, nasty little book that you are?
@4jkb4ia: Mocking the stupid thugs with their own arguments is normal run-of-the-mill posting. You have problems with that and read/post here? Please. Also, a really cleaver posting name – code for something?
@Incoherent Dennis SGMM:
yeah, there’s some substantive argument right there. Thanks for showing me how it’s done.
@eemom: Sorry, but I support nuclear power, just not amerikan reactors. You have not read my posts very carefully so, that point was rather incorrect.
If I read the posts wrong (and this happens a lot due to either my software mixing up/cover parts of the posts or something about this site) then I apologizes for my error and say that I was wrong to accuse you of taking the first pot shot. Still, it is better not to use such language since it does not prove anything of value but does undermind your point.
Incoherent Dennis SGMM
I’m here to help. Considering that you dropped substance in favor of juvenile name calling some time ago your riposte is a bit weak. Keep trying, we love to see people grow.
I believe I read that Justice Thomas hasn’t written an opinion this entire session, so that would make this one his first. And, wow, what a humdinger! Yes, Yer Honor, this is the first time the New Orleans Attorney General’s office sat on exculpatory evidence. Mmm-hmmm! And do I have some above-sea-level land in the Ninth Ward to sell you!
This looked like a threat. After having read it three times, “surveyors marks” indicates the sarcasm.
For John Kerry before Iowa. That was a license plate on the Kerry website in times primeval.
Thanks for the link. Izzard is brilliant, and evidently the strategy he advises is working its way down from dictators, to corporate heads, to governors, to district attorneys. If it ever gets down to retired civil servants I’m going out and commitin’ me some crime.
@Incoherent Dennis SGMM:
We all bow in awe of her brilliant proclamations.
@Incoherent Dennis SGMM:
at no time in this thread or the one last night did you ever direct a substative comment in my direction. Your comments to me started and ended with insults.
Thus, I never “dropped substance,” because there was none to drop. You’ve been nothing but a schoolyard bully throughout this entire dialogue.
Do fuck off now. There’s a good fellow.
imo, the lowest form of trollery is entering a discussion for the first time for no other purpose than to attack someone. That would be you. Kiss my brilliant ass.
I suppose she could have called him a “hoo-hoo” or a “coochie snorcher“.
She is nothing if not consistently entertaining.
Now aren’t you just the cutest thing!
Unfortunately, nothing to see here, folks. For many many years, courts have upheld the principle that prosecutors have qualified immunity from lawsuits.
This verdict was entirely predictable. Every court has held this way even in cases of extreme gross prosecutorial abuse.
If you want a far more heinous verdict along these lines, though, check this one out:
Woman prisoner sent to solitary for reporting a rape by guards, court rules that the guards have qualified immunity against her lawsuit.
Can I rob a bank, then, get arrested, challenge it up to the Supreme Court, and then Thomas will dismiss the charges against me saying that it was a “single incident”?
Hmm. I suppose not. I’d have to form a corporation first, and then rob the bank. Then it’d fine.
@celticdragonchick: Well, hold on now. I’d argue that “hoo hoo” is not a derogatory term for the item in question; it’s a humorous one. I use it all the time when I want to be all dainty and shit.
While many of us are frustrated (or worse) with Obama, he has to win as we have a CHANCE of either Thomas or Scalia stepping down due to health or even passing away (and no, right wing trolls, I am NOT hoping for anybody’s death) due to age.
We cannot have a President GOP flavor of the moment. These partisan hacks will soon abolish AZ’s fair election law (which Kagan made the best point: Do these laws NOT INCREASE FREE SPEECH???).
Argh. We are doomed if people stay away from voting because of frustration. If we want to get a real progressive nominated, then vote Obama in 12 and let’s push for somebody great in 16.
That was funny! :)
Nice stab at sarcasm (not!).
One thing we can be very sure of here is that DA Harry Connick, Sr. and the other prosecutors involved were exceedingly polite when they sentenced this innocent man to be executed. No “f**k you n****r” was uttered during the entire process.
John Cole @ Top:
Sigh. More evidence that the SCOTUS wingnuts will overturn HCR, when it gets there, because of course they will.
As opposed to someone whose first comment is an attempt at derailing the thread and making it all about her.
Uncle Clarence Thomas
Someday I hope to render a verdict which passes muster in the Court of the Crimson Cole.
Also too… Lifetime, bitchez!
@Senyordave: That was gonna be my comment, dammit.
This appears to be the first actual comment eemom made in this thread… and I wonder why he/she/it got so righteous thereafter about other people calling him/her/it names instead of providing “substantive comments.” I don’t see anything substantive in this remark and I don’t see any evidence provided in this, or in any of eemom’s subsequent cracks, that John Cole was “full of shit” or making “oversimplifications.”
You want oversimplification? Try this: The Supreme Court perpetrated a judicial coup d’etat back in 2000, everybody knows it, and nothing they’ve decided since has any legitimacy since we are now living in the banana republic they cursed us with. And I suggest that eemom STFU about the whole topic until he/she/it figures it out.
hey, assholes, there’s a bit of history here. Read last night’s thread or STFU.
And read all those idiot threads taking odds about how the Supreme Court justices are gonna vote on HCR. Or STFU.
and it was Cole who made the thread about me. Asshole.
Also, this was a two-fer for Clarence Thomas: he got to screw over someone who was both poor and black. Bravo Justice Thomas.
@eemom: Do you mean that thread last night where you concede that John was probably right with his conclusion but was unworthy of making it because he doesn’t have your extensive legal background?
@4jkb4ia: It was pure sarcasm based on Palin and the other thug running for office who really did these things – threatening (a federal) official is a crime – unlike Palin and that candidate asswipe who both directly and clearly with malicious and forethought – I made my sarcasm clear – those thugs and their backers are sick, yet I see no one questioning them. I’m lost to understand how those thugs who directly threaten federal officials which DID lead to an attempt to murder a congresswoman got away with it. I will not forget and will remind people how murderous these low life thugs are – Palin and other such rethugs; also, how the inferior court of the land led by uncle tom now says the law is shit and we are supposed to accept this like sheep? All we have is words but they can and will be used.
Sorry for the late response but I have other things than this blog to do.
Well, you know Cole. He probably thought it would be funny to see if you’d pull multiple muscles immediately snapping at the grossly obvious bait and then spend six hours swinging increasingly wildly at most of the people in the thread, making yourself sound pathologically unself-aware, not particularly intelligent and more than a little unstable.
He’s probably pissed as hell that you cleverly outfoxed him yet again.
Oh, I’m supposed to be so interested in you and your loud mouth that I should go hunting around for other threads you shot it off in? Don’t think so. FYI, I worked in law offices for years; lawyers rarely impress me favorably, and you’re certainly fitting in with the majority of those I’ve known.
You’re so cute when you go off your meds and fling spittle on the screen.
I think I love you.
This decision is deeply disturbing in that it completely distorts the legal standard applicable to judicial review of jury verdicts, and applies what is the correct (under precedent, not just) law to a set of facts that the majority whittled the facts as found by the jury down to. Justice Ginsburg’s dissent is devastating when you remember that the Court is required to view the facts in the light most favorable to the jury’s verdict. The patent dishonesty in purporting to apply that standard Ginsburg’s dissent documents is in line with Cole’s systemic point regarding the disinegnuousness of the justices in the majority. So is the reaching out to overrule dozens of precedents in Citizens United, and so was the majority’s overruling 50 years of unbroken precedent in interpreting the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in Bell Atlantic v. Twombley, and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, making it harder for people to bring suit in federal court. Bush v. Gore was an overture, not an aberration.
FWIW, yes, I am a lawyer, and have experience in criminal and in civil rights cases (did little else for about 10 years, and have been practicing for 20).
I’m not adding this to pile on eemom–I actually think her refusal to try to fit this case into a paradigm is principled, but, if she’s reading, would ask, snark-free, really–does she think all of these highly aggressive reinterpretations or deviations do not stem from ideological bias? And if so, what?
@eemom: I did read last night’s thread. It doesn’t change what I wrote, at all.