Monday, January 12, 2009

Holding Prosecutors Accountable -- Could It Happen Here?

From the Death Penalty Information Center (, an interesting news item:

Death Penalty Misconduct May Force District Attorney's Office into Bankruptcy

The Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office in Louisiana may file for bankruptcy because of a multi-million dollar law-suit award stemming from the office’s misconduct in a death penalty case. John Thompson, a former death row inmate, was awarded $14 million after he was exonerated due to the withholding of evidence by the former District Attorney. Thompson spent 18 years in prison, including 14 years on death row in Angola. The jury award was recently upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The District Attorney’s office said it can’t pay this and other settlements and will resort to bankruptcy in an effort to stay open. “If those funds aren’t there, those people can’t afford to work for free,” said Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission. “That means it shuts down the district attorney’s office, but it also shuts down the entire criminal justice system.”

The District Attorney’s office was already financially troubled, recently asking the City Council for $2.5 million to avoid laying off 20 workers. “It’s been hard so far – very hard,” said District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro. If the office goes bankrupt, the state's attorney general would have to assume prosecution of cases, but that would take months of preparation and expense since that office does not ordinarily perform this function. ("Orleans Parish DA's Office Faces Bankruptcy,", January 8, 2009).

My Question:

Do the Federal and State Courts in Mississippi have the political courage to hold prosecutors and other law enforcement officials accountable for misdeeds and constitutional violations? The recent lawsuits against Dr. Stephen Hayne and Dr. Michael West may start a new trend here -- unless our judges turn a blind eye to injustice . . .

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