This month’s ABA Journal has an article about the United States Supreme Court decision last week over-ruling a jury verdict in favor of an inmate who was exonerated after serving 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. See – Supreme Court Rules Against Exonerated Inmate. Here is the New York Times article on the decision from March 30, 2011.
The evidence produced at the Section 1983 civil rights trial showed that his prison term was the result of prosecutorial misconduct. Justice Clarence Thomas concluded that one event of such misconduct, even though it led to this man’s spending his adult life in prison, was not sufficient to place liability for damages on the District Attorney’s office.
The comments to the ABA post are instructive of the divides in our society with respect to the concept of justice – illustrating both sides of this issue. I have a difficult time believing there are two sides to this issue. How can a man who lost 18 years of his life due to the prosecution’s with-holding of exculpatory evidence not have recourse against those who were responsible?
The opinion can be downloaded here – Download Connick, District Attorney et al v Thompson.
The dissent was read in the Supreme Court, showing that the minority viewed this decision very strongly. Here is an excerpt from the article discussing the dissent –
Ginsburg’s dissent was joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan. She highlighted Thompson’s 18 years in prison and said requirements to turn over evidence that were established in Brady v. Maryland were dishonored in the case.
“As the trial record in the Section 1983 action reveals, the conceded, long-concealed prosecutorial transgressions were neither isolated nor atypical,” Ginsburg wrote. “From the top down, the evidence showed, members of the District Attorney’s Office, including the District Attorney himself, misperceived Brady’s compass and therefore inadequately attended to their disclosure obligations.”