Supreme Court Extends Absolute Prosecutoral Immunity

Monday, January 26th, 2009

The Supreme Court has unanimously overruled the Ninth Circuit in the case of Van de Kamp v. Goldstein, and broadened absolute prosecutorial immunity to include district attorneys whose poor supervision of subordinates may result in wrongful convictions. I wrote about the case last April:

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Thomas Goldstein, an ex-marine who was convicted of murdering his neighbor.

Goldstein served 24 years before his conviction was thrown out when the main witness against him was shown to have lied. That witness was a lifelong criminal who was given a deal on his own charges in exchange for testimony that Goldstein confessed to him in a jail cell. Goldstein alleges that the district attorney’s office that prosecuted the case routinely used the testimony of so-called “jailhouse snitches” prosecutors knew or should have known weren’t reliable.

Goldstein’s case is unusual because he’s not suing the prosecutor who convicted him, but John Van de Camp, the district attorney who supervised that prosecutor. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has allowed Goldstein’s case to go forward, causing the U.S. Supreme Court to agree to hear it.

This isn’t terribly surprising, but it’s too bad. All the incentives for prosecutors right now point toward winning convictions. There’s very little to hold them accountable when they go too far.

Currently, even if a prosecutor knowingly withholds exculpatory evidence in a case that results in a wrongful conviction, he can’t be sued.

Digg it |  reddit | |  Fark

54 Responses to “Supreme Court Extends Absolute Prosecutoral Immunity”

  1. #1 |  supercat | 

    Like many – if not most – people here, I believe in rule of law.

    Unfortunately, many in government prefer totalitarian anarchy.

  2. #2 |  Archie1954 | 

    Misfeasance, malfeasance and gross negligence should never be protected as this was. Protecting these egregious individuals and their actions is simply making sure that such misconduct will continue. The Supreme Court just handed the judicial system another disgraceful hit.

  3. #3 |  ONE OLD LADY | 

    I’ve read the thoughtful comments above. In my humble opinion only, and I’m a 67 yr old Lady with only a highschool education, you’ve all forgtton one important thing……..It’s ALL ABOUT THE MONEY! Is its not a fact that a “Defendant” presented with a Charge issued by a police officer or an agent of the State or Federal Gov is nothing more than a Bill that has to be paid by Someone? The more charges the bigger the Bill. Is it not a fact that if the “defendant” is found innocent in a court of law, that the prosecutor’s bond pays the Charges? Is it not a fact that at the end of the court’s day or however long it takes to settle the matter, the charge on the books( court records) must be balanced to zero ( could that mean ” checks and Balances) and the payments sent to the Treasury? Is it not a fact that if the prosecutor loses too many cases he then becomes Unbondable? Who then is going to pay the BILL for the prosecutor? Why do you think an “attorney” won’t take the case of a “defendant” even if he believes he’s innocent. He knows how the(game) is played. Could it be He doesn’t want to pay for the charges..the bill..lodged against the “defendant” in a case he knows he won’t or can’t win in a Public Court room.

    Now with that said….An honest Lawyer or a 3rd party acting as surety for the “defendant” will do what “46 BEN(the other one) would do….if I understand the following quote..” If I believed (or even suspected) that exculpatory evidence was being withheld, I would exhaust all my procedural options to obtain it before trial, and make the record clear (through proffers of evidence, affidavits, etc.) what was missing and why it was important to my defense.”

    He would file a Petition to the Court for an Administrative hearing in the Judges private chambers with (proffers ……ect.)
    “Not for public viewing”. BEFORE TRIAL.The Judge must then act as a ‘Referree” in this case and consider the evidence and affidavits (which unrebutted stand as Truth) on the private side…then make a Summary Judgement in a Public Forum “courtroom”…as the Public cannot hear or see what goes on ..on the private side of an administrative hearing.
    Please correct me if I’m mistaken in my understanding of all of the above.

  4. #4 |  Will Lady Justice Be Saved? | IMAGINE 2050 | 

    […] The High Court now must decide if immunity from being sued for prosecutors is absolute in Pottawatomie County vs. McGhee. Deputy Solicitor General Katyal argued that there is no “free-standing due process right not to be framed”. What seems like a no-brainer, protection from the government by the constitution and the bill of rights, may be severely diminished. Earlier this year the Supreme Court unanimously expanded prosecutorial immunity. […]