Death is the ultimate punishment because of its finality; once it is carried out, it can never be revoked. John Thompson came close to this ultimate punishment because a prosecutor failed to turn over exculpatory evidence under the principles that the U.S. Supreme Court enunciated in Brady v. Maryland. In Connick v. Thompson, the Court overturned Thompson’s $14 million award for spending eighteen years in prison (fourteen of those on death row) because previous Brady violations by the Orleans District Attorney’s Office were not enough to put the district attorney on notice regarding the need for further training on Brady’s principles and because the need for training was not so obvious that the district attorney’s office could be held liable under the failure-to-train theory. The Court’s holding is detrimental because an entire district attorney’s office may now be shielded from civil liability in the event of a Brady violation and because individuals like Thompson will have no recourse for spending time in prison due to prosecutorial misconduct. The Court’s holding discourages prosecutors from turning over exculpatory evidence, thus reducing prosecutorial accountability, and runs counter to the deeply rooted American principle that every person has the right to a fair trial.
Connick v. Thompson: Sacrificing Deterrence and Reparations in the Name of Avoiding Respondeat Superior Liability,
45 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 517
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