Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Impunity

Justice Clarence Thomas and the Right-Wing of the Supreme Court of the United States of America have recently ruled that a prosecutor can knowingly rob 14 years off your life and nearly get you murdered under state sanction, and they can do it with near absolute impunity from prosecution or punitive damages.

I'll let Jeffrey show you the round-up.

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10 comments:

patsbrother said...

Um, that's not what it says, so I'll link to the actual decision to let you read it.

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/09-571.pdf

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

That may not be exactly what it says, but it sure is exactly what it does.

These prosecutors, and the DA's office responsible for their cases, is allowed to go scot-free after significant Constitutional violations were brought to light.

Violations that one month later would not have come to light, and never seen the inside of a courtroom, because the plaintiff would have been put to death by a state based on erroneous evidence.

Thus, Justice Thomas & Co. provide an incentive for prosecutors to keep their mouths shut, DA's to look the other way, and governments to execute people as quickly as possible so they can continue to evade liability.

patsbrother said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
patsbrother said...

I was about to respond, but I've engaged in enough of these legal-based conversations with you to know not to respond without first figuring out exactly what color you think the sky is.

I assume you have now read the entire majority opinion, footnotes and all. I now want you to explain to me in your own words what you believe to be the legal holding in the case.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

The legal holding in the case is that 5 Supreme Court Justices are simply wrong, here, and are reading the law in a way to protect DA's offices around the country from being sued into ashes because so few individuals in elected positions keep their houses in order.

Despite the presented evidence, these guys simply chose to go with the These Aren't the Droids We're Looking For school of justice miscarriage because the prosecutors who violated the Constitution to put an innocent man on death row had, at some point, gone to law school. Upon willfully disregarding any evidence that didn't fit their opinion, they proceeded to vacate the type of punitive damages that would require DA's to be responsible for their employees.

You know, like almost every other profession in the damn country.

patsbrother said...

Thank you for clarifying that this is not a legal discussion based on law. I won't waste my time then.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Nope. It is a policy discussion based on legal repurcussions.

patsbrother said...

Whether Louisiana should re-write its tort laws to allow former defendants to sue prosecutors for taxpayers' money: that's a policy discussion. Have it if you want.

What this decision held: that's a legal discussion, not based on your feelings.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

So I guess you disagree with Scott Horton at Harpers, who says "The majority opinion turns a blind eye to the facts of the case as found by the Louisiana jury. Actually hearing the evidence first hand, they had no difficulty determining that the prosecutor fully intended to do what he did and persisted in doing it."

I guess you also disagree with Dahlia Lithwick at Slate when she says "In the 10 years preceding Thompson's trial, Thomas acknowledges, "Louisiana courts had overturned four convictions because of Brady violations by prosecutors in Connick's office." Yet somehow this doesn't add up to a pattern of Brady violations in the office, because the evidence in those other cases wasn't blood or crime lab evidence. Huh? He then inexplicably asserts that young prosecutors needn't be trained on Brady violations because they learned everything in law school."

No, my opinion on this matter has very little to do with the law or what legal scholars think, because Clarence Thomas and Tony Scalia are the only legal scholars that count. People who say things like:

The evidence pre-sented to the jury that awarded compensation to Thomp-son, however, points distinctly away from the Court’s assessment. As the trial record in the §1983 action re-veals, the conceded, long-concealed prosecutorial trans-gressions were neither isolated nor atypical.
From the top down, the evidence showed, members of the District Attorney’s Office, including the District At-torney himself, misperceived Brady’s compass and there-fore inadequately attended to their disclosure obligations. Throughout the pretrial and trial proceedings against Thompson, the team of four engaged in prosecuting himfor armed robbery and murder hid from the defense and the court exculpatory information Thompson requestedand had a constitutional right to receive. The prosecutorsdid so despite multiple opportunities, spanning nearly twodecades, to set the record straight. Based on the prosecu-tors’ conduct relating to Thompson’s trials, a fact triercould reasonably conclude that inattention to Brady was standard operating procedure at the District Attorney’s Office.
"

are only reacting to emotion not evidence or settled law. People who say things like that could never be legal scholars who rule on important matters before the US Supreme Court.

patsbrother said...

You stated that the Court via Thomas in this case ruled that prosecutors can knowingly rob someone of his liberty/life without prosecution or punitive damages.

First, this decision had nothing to do with the specific prosecutors involved; your town decided not to prosecute them. The decision dealt with whether your town was financially responsible to Thompson in a civil case based on those prosecutors' superior's failure to train them. (More on this later.)

Second, this case does not hold that you cannot obtain monetary damages against a district attorney's office.

I take issue with your ramblings not because you disagree with the decision or are upset by it. I'm calling you out for going into shrill, hyperbolic mode and for misrepresenting the decision and the issues around it.

And now for why I'm not upset by this decision.

Over twenty years ago, in a footnote, the Court hypothesized that a plaintiff might - MIGHT - be able to prove the deliberate indifference necessary to proceed under a failure-to-trail theory absent a specific pattern of abuse, but only under exceptional circumstances. The Court does not appear to have ever found such exceptional circumstances. Here, where the prosecutors were all familiar with Brady generally, and had all been trained in how to interpret and follow caselaw, the Court held that this was just not that exceptional case in which the need to train was so "obvious" or that such violations as occurred here were such a "highly predictable consequence" of the failure to train.

In everything that you've written, you have indicated a belief that all these prosecutors were knowingly violating the defendant's rights, and that somehow the jury's verdict should be upheld for this reason. I note that the jury specifically held that the Brady violation was not the result of an official policy, but rather their superior's failure to train. (I also note this case did not proceed on a theory of intentional wrongdoing on the part of those actually involved, not because that's not what happened, but because that is not the basis upon which the plaintiff's claim relies.)

Regarding pattern (here I am quoting the opinion of the lower court), "Thompson does NOT argue that there was evidence of a pattern, but instead contends that evidence of a pattern is not always necessary for a finding of deliberate indifference." (Emphasis added.) Thompson v. Connick, 554 F.3d 836, 851 (B1) (5th Cir.)(on sufficiency of the evidence). The Fifth Circuit went on to hold that the evidence was sufficient to support the claim absent a showing of pattern. The Supreme Court reviewed that specific decision. This is why the majority and the concurrence remark on how strange it is that the dissent argues pattern: that simply was not a part of the legal issue presented to the Court for its review.

Any claim that a pattern existed ended when Thompson failed to raise it. (This is a rule of appellate procedured I know very well.) For whatever reason, Thompson chose not to argue a pattern existed, at least in front of the Fifth Circuit. From that point forward, the legal question became: absent a pattern, was this evidence sufficient to prove that the District Attorney was deliberately indifferent in failing to train his subordinates. Again, the Supreme Court has never upheld a case premised upon a failure-to-train theory absent a pattern; it has merely hypothesized about its existence.