Supreme Court: No One Should Pay for Innocent Man's 18-Year Incarceration

John Thompson (pictured) was convicted of a 1984 armed robbery, and later of murder. He spent 18 years in prison, including 14 years on death row. Problem: the prosecutors who sent him to jail withheld some evidence—including eyewitness reports describing a perpetrator who looked nothing like Thompson, and a blood test that proved Thompson's innocence.

So, after all those years, after facing seven execution warrants, when Thompson finally managed to get himself freed from prison after new trials, Thompson sued the New Orleans district attorney for not training his prosecutors to, you know, not send innocent people away for decades. He won a $14 million judgment from a jury. That was appealed, all the way to the Supreme Court. And yesterday, voila: John Thompson gets nothing. From the NYT:

Justice Scalia, in a concurrence joined by Justice Alito, said the misconduct in the case was the work of a single "miscreant prosecutor," Gerry Deegan, who suppressed evidence "he believed to be exculpatory, in an effort to railroad Thompson." No amount of training, Justice Scalia wrote, would have countered such willful wrongdoing.

In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg wrote that "no fewer than five prosecutors" were complicit in a violation of Mr. Thompson's constitutional rights. "They kept from him, year upon year, evidence vital to his defense."

Here in America, all bad outcomes which reflect poorly on the current power structure are the result of a handful of Bad Apples. And you can't hold the people in charge accountable for the work of A Few Bad Apples. This principle applies to ill-conceived wars gone wrong, greed-induced collapse of financial systems, profit-driven corporate environmental destruction, and willful miscarriages of justice. And any future unforeseen disasters, to be determined at a later date.

Conservatism!

[Photo: AP]