Monday, April 20, 2009

Supreme Court to Consider Prosecutor Immunity for Using False Testimony

Debra Cassens Weiss of the reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear a case involving prosecutor immunity from lawsuits for procuring false evidence in a criminal investigation and then using it at trial.

According to the Supreme Court Blog, the case (Pottawattamie County v. Harrington) is "a significant new test case on prosecutors’ immunity to damage lawsuits for the way they conduct criminal investigations and then prosecute the cases in court."

The case was brought by two black teens imprisoned for 25 years after they were convicted of killing a retired, white police officer, the Des Moines Register reports. In their suit, the plaintiffs claim prosecutors coached witnesses to lie and concealed evidence. The case involves a distinction between absolute immunity, conferred for prosecutor errors during trial, and limited immunity that applies during the investigative phase of a case.

The implications of the case depend on your point of view, according to the Des Moines Register. “It either would prevent those who are wrongly convicted of crimes by deceitful prosecutors from recovering damages through civil suits, or it would put prosecutors in a weakened position, based on the fear of having to suffer for mistakes made while fulfilling their duty to protect the public."

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