I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…
Some of the vilest criminals in America are never brought to justice, never given even the faintest slaps on the wrist, because they sit behind the tables closest to the juries in our courtrooms.
Virtually every day, prosecutors lie, cheat, and steal the lives of citizens whose rights they have sworn an oath to uphold. And there is not a damn thing you or I can do about it because the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court of the United States, refuses to hold them accountable.
It has not stopped a former Justice of that Court from trying. John Paul Stevens, who retired five years ago, only yesterday wrote to the editor of The New York Times urging a remedy for prosecutorial misconduct. That remedy, first proposed by Justice Stevens thirty years ago, is to permit gravely wronged defendants (or sometimes their heirs, because prosecutor misconduct put the defendants in the ground) to sue these rotten lawyers and their employer, the State, now immune to lawsuit.
Justice Stevens wrote of “the manifest injustice” of the Supreme Court’s refusal, in a 2011 decision, “to force the New Orleans prosecutor’s office to compensate John Thompson for spending 18 years in prison after his wrongful convictions.” More men are lining up before the Court with similar claims against that prosecutor’s office. Around the country, there has been an epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct since the decision.
We can avoid these injustices, he says. “The rule of respondeat superior — which requires employers to pay damages for torts committed by their employees in the ordinary course of business — should apply to state law enforcement agencies.”
That will take, of course, either a principled Congress (do they have those any more?) or five members of a Supreme Court willing to call an end to the antics of prosecutors like the one in my neck of the woods who last year tried to kill a man he’d already locked up for the rest of his life by wrongful conviction.