Connick v. Thompson
John Thompson was arrested in January, 1985, and was in constant imprisonment for 18 years, until his exoneration in May, 2003. Unlike other states, Louisiana has no state law providing compensation to exonerees for the time taken from them behind bars. As a result, when John was released from prison, he was given nothing but the clothes he had worn during his arrest in 1985.
In 2005, Michael Banks and Gordon Cooney continued their pro bono representation of John Thompson by helping him seek fair compensation for his unjust imprisonment. John filed a suit against the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office and against prosecutors Harry Connick, Sr., Eric Dubelier, Jim Williams in their official and personal capacities.
In 2007, a jury agreed that Harry Connick had engaged in a pattern and practice of failing to properly train his prosecutors about their obligations to provide defense attorneys with exculpatory evidence, as required by the Supreme Court decision in Brady v. Maryland and its progeny. The jury found that Connick’s failure to train his Assistant DAs on this crucial area of teh law amounted to deliberate indifference of his obligations to conduct his office in a professional way, and that John Thompson’s imprisonment was a direct result of Connick’s actions. As a result, the jury decided that John was entitled to $14,000,000.
The DA’s Office appealed the decision, and John won the appeal, a 2-1 decision before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The DA’s Office appealed again, and the case will be argued before the United States Supreme Court on October 6, 2010. In an age where our governments at all levels are increasingly unaccountable for their actions, Connick v. Thompson will be a landmark decision, with significant impact on the ability of every American to hold municipal governments accountable for its actions. It will also be an intriguing look at the role of our newest Supreme Court Justice, Elena Kagan, in her first term on the Supreme Court.