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New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers - NYSACDL

New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers - NYSACDL
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“You may be 38 years old as I happen to be, and one day some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause--and you refuse to do it because you are afraid; you refuse to do it because you want to live longer; you\'re afraid that you will lose your job, or you\'re afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity or you\'re afraid that somebody will stab you or shoot at you or bomb your house, and so you refuse to take the stand. Well you may go on and live until you are 90, but you\'re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90! And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit. You died when you refused to stand up for right, you died when you refused to stand up for truth, you died when you refused to stand up for justice.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr. 

 

Supreme Court rules no §1983 violation

John Thompson spent 18 years in prison, 14 of them on death row for a murder he did not commit.  ”I had sons who grew up without a father, who thought their father was a killer.”  Thompson did not testify at his murder trial because he had an armed robbery conviction on his record.  One month before his scheduled execution, Thompson’s investigator found undisclosed exculpatory evidence from the robbery case – a lab report showing that the assailant’s blood did not match Thompson’s.   As a result, both convictions were vacated.  The murder case was retried and Thompson was acquitted.  Thompson filed a §1983 (42 U.S.C. §1983) action against the DA’s office alleging that the failure to disclose the lab report was an unconstitutional violation caused by the DA’s office’s deliberate indifference to the need to train prosecutors properly.  A jury awarded Thompson $14 million in damages.

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed that award holding that a district attorney’s office may not be held liable for a §1983 violation under a “failure to train” theory based upon a single Brady violation.

“I’m not worried about their money. I want them to be held accountable.” Thompson said today in a news conference.

Connick v. Thompson, 09-571.