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Connick v. Thompson

Supreme Court of the United States

October 6, 2010, Argued; March 29, 2011, Decided

No. 09-571

Opinion

 [*54]  Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office now concedes that, in prosecuting respondent John Thompson for attempted armed robbery, prosecutors failed to disclose evidence that should have been turned over to the defense under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S. Ct. 1194, 10 L. Ed. 2d 215 (1963). Thompson was convicted. Because of that conviction Thompson elected not to testify defense in his later trial for murder, and he was again convicted. Thompson spent 18 years in prison, including 14 years on death row. One month before Thompson's scheduled execution, his investigator discovered the undisclosed evidence from his armed robbery trial. The reviewing court determined that the evidence was exculpatory, and both of Thompson's convictions were vacated.

After his release from prison, Thompson sued petitioner Harry Connick, in his official capacity as the Orleans Parish district attorney, for damages under Rev. Stat. § 1979, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Thompson alleged that Connick had failed  [****7] to train his prosecutors adequately about their duty to produce exculpatory evidence and that the lack of training had caused the nondisclosure in Thompson's robbery case. The jury awarded Thompson $14 million, and [**1356]  the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed by an evenly divided en banc court. We granted certiorari to decide whether a district attorney's office may be held liable under § 1983 for failure to train based on a single Brady violation. We hold that it cannot.

In early 1985, John Thompson was charged with the murder of Raymond T. Liuzza, Jr., in New Orleans. Publicity following the murder charge led  [***423]  the victims of an unrelated  [*55]  armed robbery to identify Thompson as their attacker. The district attorney charged Thompson with attempted armed robbery.

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563 U.S. 51 *; 131 S. Ct. 1350 **; 179 L. Ed. 2d 417 ***; 2011 U.S. LEXIS 2594 ****; 79 U.S.L.W. 4195; 22 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 887

HARRY F. CONNICK, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, et al., Petitioners v. JOHN THOMPSON

Prior History:  [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT.

Thompson v. Connick, 578 F.3d 293, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 17728 (5th Cir. La., 2009)

Disposition: Reversed.

CORE TERMS

training, violations, deliberate indifference, district attorney's office, armed robbery, murder, blood, swatch, deliberately, municipality, rights, indifferent, failure to train, constitutional right, crime lab, obligations, constitutional violation, police report, district attorney, lab, decisions, employees, cases, hair, notice, murder trial, blood type, policymakers, supervision, convicted

Civil Rights Law, Scope, Law Enforcement Officials, General Overview, Protection of Rights, Section 1983 Actions, Scope, Immunity From Liability, Respondeat Superior Distinguished, Governments, Local Governments, Claims By & Against, Local Officials, Customs & Policies, Deliberate Indifference, Criminal Law & Procedure, Counsel, Prosecutors