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Supreme Court rules that wrongly convicted man cannot sue prosecutor

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that a man who spent 14 years on death row for a murder that he did not commit could not sue the former head of the district attorney's office that put him there, even though prosecutorial misconduct led to his trial and conviction. The decision is in line with a ruling made 35 years ago that people could not sue individual prosecutors for constitutional violations.

Prosecutors have a constitutional obligation to disclose evidence that could prove the innocence of a defendant. This was determined in the 1963 case Brady v. Maryland. According to USA Today, in this man's case, prosecutors hid a blood sample that was collected at the scene of a car-jacking that could have proved the man did not commit the crime.

The blood sample was kept a secret and the man was convicted of car-jacking and later put on trial for a related murder. If the blood sample had been disclosed, he may not have even had to go on trial for murder, let alone be wrongly convicted and spend 14 years on death row for a crime he did not commit. After one of the man's lawyers found the blood sample, he was released from prison.

The justices voted 5-4 to overturn a lower court's award of $14 million in damages to the man. The man had sought to prove that faulty training had led to the prosecutorial misconduct within the New Orleans district attorney's office that put him on trial. The majority justices said that the defense had failed to prove that a pattern of misconduct occurred as a result of poor training.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the minority and said that the man was the victim of clear misconduct on the part of the prosecutors and that the former district attorney was to blame for a culture of misconduct at the office and for the gross violation of the man's civil rights.


Supreme Court: Exonerated inmate won't get $14M (USA Today)

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