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Justice Stevens urges Congress to hold prosecutors accountable

An earlier blog post discussed a March U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn a jury's $14 million award to a man who had been wrongfully convicted. The man spent 14 years on death row for a murder he did not commit. It later came to light that the district attorney's office that convicted him had hidden evidence that would have proven his innocence.

The man later filed a lawsuit against the district attorney's office for violating his constitutional rights. A jury eventually agreed that the district attorney at the time had violated the man's rights by not properly training prosecutors in the office that it was against the law to hide evidence that could prove a defendant's innocence.

The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed with the jury's decision and overturned the award. The justices were split 5-4 in favor of overturning the earlier decision. The majority justices felt that the wrongfully convicted man had needed to prove that the head prosecutor had systematically and purposefully failed to properly train prosecutors, and the majority justices believed that the plaintiff had not proved that.

According to The Wall Street Journal, retired Justice John Paul Stevens recently gave a speech to the Equal Justice Initiative in which he said that it was up to Congress to make sure that prosecutors can be held liable for violating a criminal defendant's constitutional rights.

Stevens said that it was necessary to make prosecutors liable for misconduct because electoral appointment of prosecutors encourages misconduct because prosecutors need to be seen as tough on crime. Stevens urged Congress to make district attorneys liable for their employees' misconduct in order to create an incentive to uphold defendant's rights.

Source:

Stevens Urges Congress to Crack Down on Prosecutorial Misconduct (The Wall Street Journal)

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