At the end of March an atrocity happened in the Supreme Court, one that can redefine our system of justice and put us more on track to become a third world nation governed by dictators.
John Thompson was convicted of murder and robbery in the 1980’s in New Orleans. He was then sentenced to death. For the next 14 years he resided on death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary until it was uncovered that prosecutors hid evidence that exonerated him from the crimes. Today Thompson tells his story in the New York Times:
I SPENT 18 years in prison for robbery and murder, 14 of them on death row. I’ve been free since 2003, exonerated after evidence covered up by prosecutors surfaced just weeks before my execution date. Those prosecutors were never punished. Last month, the Supreme Court decided 5-4 to overturn a case I’d won against them and the district attorney who oversaw my case, ruling that they were not liable for the failure to turn over that evidence — which included proof that blood at the robbery scene wasn’t mine.
Because of that, prosecutors are free to do the same thing to someone else today.
Read the entire thing and you will realize the horror that any of us could easily go through. Not just the fear of being put to death, but the loss of 18 years of your life for something you never did. You might even think you’re reading a John Grisham book, but this is real life.
Thompson did decide to sue the prosecutors office and ended up winning, however the defendants kept appealing until it got to the right leaning Supreme Court. There they overturned the rulings and the right side of the court prevailed. In the ruling, Clarence Thomas referred to this as a “single incident” where mistakes were made, but also said that Thompson failed to prove that this was more than an isolated incident. In other words, Thomas said “yeah they screwed up, almost killed you, but it was only once, so oh well”. Could you imagine a doctor, giving the wrong medication and killing someone, getting off like that?
But saying mistakes were made is a gross understatement. Take this part from Thompson’s piece in today’s New York Times:
The prosecutors involved in my two cases, from the office of the Orleans Parish district attorney, Harry Connick Sr., helped to cover up 10 separate pieces of evidence. And most of them are still able to practice law today.
This sounds more like collusion than a “mistake”. The people charged with defending the laws are actually violating them. Hiding evidence like this should be the equivalent of perjury. At the minimum the prosecutors involved should be disbarred. More fitting would be for them to have to serve time.
This is also much more than an “isolated incident”. Again I refer to Thompson’s piece:
Worst of all, I wasn’t the only person they played dirty with. Of the six men one of my prosecutors got sentenced to death, five eventually had their convictions reversed because of prosecutorial misconduct. Because we were sentenced to death, the courts had to appoint us lawyers to fight our appeals. I was lucky, and got lawyers who went to extraordinary lengths. But there are more than 4,000 people serving life without parole in Louisiana, almost none of whom have lawyers after their convictions are final. Someone needs to look at those cases to see how many others might be innocent.
So five of the six death penalties won by Connick have been overturned because of “prosecutorial misconduct”. That’s an 83% failure rate and yet Connick is still allowed to practice law today and continue doing the same thing?
The decision by the Supreme Court was delivered right along ideological lines, yet what Connick is doing isn’t partisan. This could happen to anyone, despite their political beliefs. We no longer have a high court that rules by law. Instead they decide by ideological beliefs. This was not the type of court our founding fathers envisioned and should not be one allowed to exist today.
Could you imagine if this same thing happened to Sarah Palin or the white conservative guy down the street? We would be hearing about it 24/7 on the news and the country would be outraged. That wasn’t the case here. Instead this happened to a poor black guy in New Orleans, so no one seems to give a damn. That’s every bit as big of a crime as what the prosecutors in New Orleans did to Thompson.