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March 01, 2012

Prosecutorial Misconduct Panel Held at ABA Midyear Meeting

Emily M. Williams

On February 4, 2012, during the ABA midyear meeting in New Orleans, the Death Penalty Representation Project co-sponsored an event entitled “Prosecutorial Accountability in the Post-Connick v. Thompson Era: Reforms and Solutions.”

Last year, in Connick v. Thompson, a closely divided U.S. Supreme Court overturned a $14 million judgment awarded to exonerated Louisiana death row prisoner John Thompson against the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office for violations of its obligations under Brady v. Maryland, which requires prosecutors to disclose evidence favorable to the defense. The Court refused to hold the Office financially liable, provoking sharp dissents from several members of the Court and public criticism from retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. More recently, in Smith v. Cain, the Supreme Court found that the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office had again violated its obligations under Brady.

This program brought together a diverse group of experts to discuss these important cases, whether and how prosecutors should be held accountable for misconduct, and possible solutions and reforms which will help limit future misconduct. Panelists included Deborah Jane Cooper, co-author of “The Myth of Prosecutorial Accountability After Connick v. Thompson: Why Existing Professional Responsibility Measures Cannot Protect Against Prosecutorial Misconduct;” Lawrence J. Fox, Partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath and Yale Law School Lecturer; Professor Bruce Green from Fordham University School of Law; Mathias H. Heck, Jr., former Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the Montgomery County, Ohio Chief Prosecuting Attorney; and John Thompson, exonerated Louisiana death row prisoner and founder of Resurrection After Exoneration.

Emily M. Williams

Staff Attorney