Award to Man Wrongfully Convicted Reversed by U.S. Supreme Court

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, reversed a $14 million award to a man wrongly convicted who spent over a decade on death row.

In 1985, John Thompson was charged with the murder of Raymond Liuzza. Thompson was also charged with a separate attempted armed robbery. The trial for the armed robbery charge was conducted first. Thompson was convicted of this charge, due largely to the prosecution's failure to turn over an exculpatory lab report.

When Thompson went on trial for the murder, he decided not to testify in his own defense because of the prior conviction. As a result, he was convicted of the murder and sentenced to death for this crime.

Though Thompson maintained his innocence he spent nearly all of his 18 years in prison on death row. Efforts to appeal the conviction and sentence were denied along the way.

According to the Supreme Court's opinion, a private investigator found the missing lab report in 1999. The blood type noted in the report was type B, but Thompson had type O blood, meaning this report would have proved his innocence in the robbery case. The conviction for armed robbery was vacated and the subsequent murder conviction was reversed by the Louisiana Court of Appeals, which held that Thompson was deprived of his right to testify in his own defense.

After a retrial on the charge, Thompson was found not guilty. Thompson then filed suit against the district attorney's office, ultimately receiving over $14 million in damages from the jury. The Court of Appeals affirmed and the issue made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The majority for the Supreme Court ultimately held that the district attorney's office could not be held responsible for a single incident of failing to turn over exculpatory evidence. Rather, a pattern of misconduct would have to be shown for the District Attorney to be held responsible.