November 9, 2011
Prosecutorial Duties and Constitutional Remedies Redux
Yesterday's oral argument at the United States Supreme Court in Smith v. Cain posed - - - as SCOTUSBlog Lyle Denniston phrased it - - - a "heavy burden" for a lawyer from that "oft-criticized office" of the New Orleans District Attorney's Office "to mount any defense of its prosecution."
Yet criticism or not, it is important to recall that last year's 5-4 decision in Connick v. Thompson about prosecutorial misconduct, again on Brady violation, set aside a civil damages verdict for a person who was wrongly convicted and spent the last 18 years incarcerated of which 14 years were on death row.
Rejecting the jury verdict and the Fifth Circuit, Justice Thomas writing for the majority stated that Connick's office had no need to provide training of its prosecutors in complying with the constitutional requirements of Brady: "all attorneys must graduate from law school or pass a substantive examination; attorneys in the vast majority of jurisdictions must do both," and most jurisdictions "require attorneys to satisfy continuing-education requirements."
The vigorous dissent in Connick v. Thompson was echoed in some of the questions from the bench in the Smith v. Cain argument. Smith is seeking to have his criminal conviction reversed; perhaps he will be more successful than Mr. Thompson whose $14 million damage award was reversed.
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