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Supreme Court to Decide Whether Prosecutor Immune from Litigation

The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that prosecutors should be immune from lawsuits even if they deliberately violated laws to secure a conviction. The U.S. Supreme Court says this is because prosecutors are part of the "judicial process" and opening the door to litigation could lead to baseless lawsuits that would harass prosecutors and keep them from doing their jobs.

Some criminal defense attorneys, crime experts and others, however, argue that granting prosecutors immunity from litigation means that gross misconduct, such as hiding DNA evidence that could prove someone innocent of rape, goes unpunished. According to the Los Angeles Times, researchers who have looked at cases of people who were wrongfully convicted and later exonerated on DNA evidence were often convicted based on a prosecutor's misconduct.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court last fall and scheduled to be decided on early this year involves a lawsuit brought against a district attorney's office whose prosecutor hid evidence in order to convict a man for murder.

The man was on death row for 14 years and released shortly before being executed for a crime he did not commit. An investigator luckily discovered a key piece of DNA evidence that had been hidden by the prosecutor in the case. The discovered evidence proved the man's innocence and he was set free.

The man sued the New Orleans district attorney's office for the former prosecutor's misconduct and was awarded damages by a jury. The case was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court rules along the same lines as the recent past, it is possible they will overturn the lower courts' decision.


Supreme Court takes dim view of suing prosecutors (Los Angeles Times)

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