The Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed skeptical of a $14 million judgment given to a former death row inmate who accused New Orleans prosecutors of withholding evidence to help convict him of murder.
John Thompson, who at one point was only weeks away from being executed, successfully sued the district attorney's office in New Orleans, arguing that former District Attorney Harry Connick showed deliberate indifference by not providing adequate training for assistant district attorneys.
Prosecutors normally have immunity for their actions while working, but Thompson convinced a jury that the district attorney's office had not trained its lawyers sufficiently on how to handle evidence. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was split evenly on appeal, which upheld the lower court verdict.
"They all knew what not to produce. What they didn't know was what to produce," Thompson's lawyer J. Gordon Cooney said.
But justices repeatedly questioned how much training would be enough to satisfy any new legal standard on Brady rights for prosecutors. Brady rights are named after the Supreme Court's Brady v. Maryland case, which says prosecutors violate a defendant's constitutional rights by not turning over evidence that could prove a person's innocence.