Title

U.S. Supreme Court in Connick v. Thompson Lets Prosecutors Off the Hook for a 14 Million Dollar Civil Rights Claim

Presenter Information

Salomon Phe

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Location

SURC 137A

Start Date

17-5-2012

End Date

17-5-2012

Abstract

In this U.S. Supreme Court case John Thompson sought to find the Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick liable for a civil rights claim under Section 1983. Thompson alleged that the prosecution’s failure to disclose exculpable evidence (as required by the Brady rule) to his defense violated his civil rights. As a result of their failure, Thompson spent 18 years in confinement with an approaching death sentence. The exculpable evidence was discovered by his private investigator one month prior to his execution date. With the new evidence in hand, Thompson was retried for murder and acquitted. At the lower court level, Thompson was awarded $14 million in damages on his claim. Connick appealed this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court claiming that the deliberate indifference standard, outlined in Canton v. Harris, had not been satisfied. By a notable 5-4 decision, the majority agreed with Connick holding that a District Attorney’s Office cannot be found liable under Section 1983 for a failure to train its prosecutors based on a single Brady violation. The presentation will discuss the facts of the case and the policy implications for agencies based on the size of this award and the potential to provide a substantial deterrent for non-disclosure of evidence along with the social policy concerns regarding a person being held behind bars for 18 years. Also discussed will be what this case shows regarding trends of the U.S. Supreme Court based upon its current composition.

Faculty Mentor(s)

Mary Ellen Reimund

Additional Mentoring Department

Law and Justice

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May 17th, 10:00 AM May 17th, 11:20 AM

U.S. Supreme Court in Connick v. Thompson Lets Prosecutors Off the Hook for a 14 Million Dollar Civil Rights Claim

SURC 137A

In this U.S. Supreme Court case John Thompson sought to find the Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick liable for a civil rights claim under Section 1983. Thompson alleged that the prosecution’s failure to disclose exculpable evidence (as required by the Brady rule) to his defense violated his civil rights. As a result of their failure, Thompson spent 18 years in confinement with an approaching death sentence. The exculpable evidence was discovered by his private investigator one month prior to his execution date. With the new evidence in hand, Thompson was retried for murder and acquitted. At the lower court level, Thompson was awarded $14 million in damages on his claim. Connick appealed this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court claiming that the deliberate indifference standard, outlined in Canton v. Harris, had not been satisfied. By a notable 5-4 decision, the majority agreed with Connick holding that a District Attorney’s Office cannot be found liable under Section 1983 for a failure to train its prosecutors based on a single Brady violation. The presentation will discuss the facts of the case and the policy implications for agencies based on the size of this award and the potential to provide a substantial deterrent for non-disclosure of evidence along with the social policy concerns regarding a person being held behind bars for 18 years. Also discussed will be what this case shows regarding trends of the U.S. Supreme Court based upon its current composition.