Ryan Forum Address Prosecutorial Oversight and Misconduct
On October 1, the Villanova University School of Law Matthew H. Ryan Law and Public Policy Forum hosted the Pennsylvania stop of a national tour to address the issue of prosecutorial oversight in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Connick v. Thompson.
The program featured John Thompson, the plaintiff/appellee in the case. Mr. Thompson was one month from being executed when his lawyers, J. Gordon Cooney, Jr. VLS '84 and Michael L. Banks from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, uncovered previously (and intentionally) withheld physical evidence which exonerated him from a robbery that served as the aggravator enabling the State of Louisiana to seek the death penalty for an unrelated murder. Mr. Thompson was exonerated from the robbery charge and found not guilty of the homicide after a retrial. At that time, he had already served 18 years in prison, including 14 on death row. After his acquittal, it became evident that the District Attorney had withheld even more exculpatory evidence. While Mr. Thompson won $14.5 million in punitive damages in a Section 1983 action against the District Attorney's office, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the jury award, finding that the District Attorney had qualified immunity from the suit.
Villanova University School of Law Professor Anne Poulin moderated the dialogue, as panelists discussed systemic and legal approaches for reducing prosecutorial error and misconduct. Panelists included Thompson, Honorable William R. Carpenter, Court of Common Pleas, Montgomery County; Thomas G. Wilkinson, Jr. VLS '81, President of the Pennsylvania Bar Association and Partner at Cozen O'Connor; Greg Rowe, Legislative Liaison for the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association; and Emily West, Research Director of Innocence Project.
Click here to watch an archived webcast of the event.