John Thompson spent 18 years in a Louisiana prison for two murders he did not commit. Now, the Supreme Court has ruled that he does not deserve $14 million in compensation from the prosecutors who illegally convicted him. The New Orleans district attorney's office withheld blood tests that would have exonerated Thompson, and the evidence was unearthed just one month before he was due to be executed. He was later awarded $14 million in a civil trial. But the Supreme Court reversed that decision, ruling 5-4 that a "single incident" did not add up to "deliberate indifference" on the part of prosecutors. Civil rights activists are outraged, as is Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who took the unprecedented step of accusing the conservative majority of ignoring "flagrant" misconduct. What will the repercussions of this case be?
Prosecutors will now be free to withhold evidence: It seems obvious that the New Orleans D.A's office should be held accountable for this "gross denial of due process," says Scott Lemieux at The American Prospect. But evidently, the conservative majority of the Supreme Court believes that "accountability for crimes (actual or alleged) is only for the powerless." This "terrible" decision effectively removes the incentive for prosecutors to respect the constitutional rights of defendants.
"The latest disgrace from the Roberts court"
We have new evidence of how radically extreme the Court is: Justice Ginsburg had it exactly right, says Scarecrow at Firedoglake. Were the five conservative justices on the Supreme Court even listening to the evidence? Not only did five prosecutors know of the hidden blood tests, they also ignored eyewitness reports from the scene of the crime. Thompson's lawyers even found similar instances of concealed evidence. How can they say this is an "isolated incident"?
"Radical Supremes deny justice to man falsely convicted by D.A. misconduct"
And more proof that the Court continues to favor the powerful: Justice Scalia warned that ruling in favor of Thompson would have set a fearsome precedent for the government, says Wendy Kaminer at The Atlantic, holding individual agencies "responsible for the misconduct of government employees," and opening them up to thousands of lawsuits. But that's how it should be. Corporations are regularly held accountable for the "wrongful acts of employees." Government should be, too.
"When the Supreme Court fears too much justice."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The U.S. Marines are developing laser weapons. Here's why.
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Ban PowerPoint!
- How 1,000-year lifespans could remake the economy
- Gamergate has backfired spectacularly on its nincompoop perpetrators
- Why the Supreme Court is allowing Texas to hold an unconstitutional election
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
Subscribe to the Week