My name is John Thompson. Prosecutors intentionally tried to wrongfully execute me. I proved that, saved my life, and was awarded civil damages for what I’d suffered.
Five years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court declared in Thompson v. Connick that I deserved no compensation, instead declaring prosecutors essentially immune from lawsuits. The Court ruled that education, training, internal supervision, bar oversight, and criminal sanctions were sufficient protections to ensure that prosecutors would consistently act within their legal and ethical guidelines. Yet each of those things were – and remain – essentially a joke in my case.
In the wake of the Court’s decision, I joined with the Innocence Project, Veritas Initiative, and others to conduct expert forums across the country, to publicly explore what various jurisdictions’ systems and practices were for ensuring that prosecutors understood their responsibilities, and undertook them appropriately.
What these forums and specific research revealed, was that across the country, prosecutors are rarely held accountable when they violate the law or their ethics. Internal oversight is weak. Bar overseers generally acknowledge they’re ill equipped to properly address misbehaving prosecutors. And in the few places where criminal sanctions are available for the most heinous conduct, it is extremely rare that they are even considered.
Five years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled as it did in my case, the Innocence Project today released the report that reviews the realities of prosecutorial oversight, entitled “Prosecutorial Oversight: A National Dialogue in the Wake of Connick v. Thompson”
Here’s the punch line. Jim Williams, the prosecutor who wrongfully sent me to death row, has sent five other people to death row whose death sentences were overturned because of constitutional violations. Those people are Keith Messiah, Glenn Seals, Novel Smith, Allen Snyder, and Curtis Kyles.
Williams has never been held accountable for these injustices. His hundreds of other convictions, potentially similarly tainted, have never been meaningfully reviewed.
Who protects individuals when their counties and states violate the Constitution?
The answers speak volumes about criminal justice in America.