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¡No Se Deje!
Several Supreme Court decisions have caused critics to question the integrity of justice in this country. The long held reputation for producing the highest level of justice is based on our consistent application of sound legal principles designed to ensure that every person will be treated equally under the law. “A SYSTEM OF LAWS NOT MEN” means that the law will determine if a crime or civil wrong has been committed and punishment imposed. The status or stature of the accused person is supposed to be irrelevant. “NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW” was effectively demonstrated when President Richard Nixon was caused to resign and President Bill Clinton was allowed to be sued by an Arkansas state worker.
Legal experts feel that these and other important legal principles have been violated by some decisions of the Supreme Court. In one case, the Court denied Thomas Goldstein the right to sue the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office even after it was revealed that prosecutors knowingly used perjured testimony from a convicted criminal to convict him of a murder he did not commit. The witness later admitted that he had lied. Two federal judges and 3 federal appeals court judges ruled that he was innocent and wrongly convicted. The city of Long Beach agreed to pay him $8 million for his wrongful incarceration for 24 years yet the Supreme Court ruled that the victim cannot sue the wrongdoers.
In another case, prosecutors in Iowa were sued for “framing” two black teenagers for murder, even though the witnesses had identified a suspect that is white. After they spent 25 years in prison, a federal judge ruled that the prosecutors are not entitled to immunity from prosecution for fabricating the false testimony. The prosecutors actually asked the court to dismiss the claim because “there is no constitutional right not to be framed.” The victim agreed to accept a voluntary settlement before the Supreme Court had decided the prosecutors’ appeal.
The Supreme Court also heard the legal arguments in the case of John Thompson, who had spent 14 years in prison waiting to be executed for a crime he did not commit. He was one month away from his execution date when a young crime lab investigator found proof that prosecutors had intentionally hidden blood test evidence that would have established his innocence. Mr. Thompson sued the Office of the New Orleans District Attorney and a jury awarded him $14 million dollars.
Legal experts feared that the U. S. Supreme Court would once again protect prosecutors who, in this case, deliberately violated the law and caused an innocent man to spend many years on death row. The High Court eventually ruled that the New Orleans District Attorney Office is not liable, and may use this case to create immunity from lawsuits for all District Attorneys Offices. Justice Alito seemed to suggest that it would be unfair to allow the Offices of District Attorneys to be sued for the misconduct of a few individual prosecutors. Since the Court has already ruled that individual prosecutors cannot be sued, the victims will have no remedy for prosecutorial misconduct. ¡NO SE DEJE! ®
Jess J. Araujo, Esq.