Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Supreme Court Protects Prosecutors

The LA Times reports that the US Supreme Court has broadened the protection afforded prosecutors to further limit their responsibility when they convict innocent people. Here's a part of the article:

Reporting from Washington -- The Supreme Court on Monday threw out a lawsuit by a Los Angeles man wrongfully convicted of murder and gave district attorneys a broad shield against being sued even if their management mistakes send an innocent person to prison.Thomas L. Goldstein, a former Marine convicted in a 1979 shooting in Long Beach, spent 24 years in prison largely on the word of a heroin addict who had worked as a jailhouse informant for police and prosecutors. Edward F. Fink lied on the witness stand when he denied receiving a benefit for testifying for police, a judge found.

Goldstein was freed in 2004, and he sued former Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. John K. Van de Kamp and top deputy Curt Livesay, contending they allowed prosecutors to regularly use jailhouse informants and did not take steps to make sure they were telling the truth.

In Goldstein's case, the trial prosecutor did not know Fink was lying because other prosecutors in the sprawling district attorney's office did not share information.The Supreme Court mostly set aside the facts of Goldstein's case and focused on the potential harm of allowing top prosecutors to be sued. District attorneys who are managing teams of prosecutors should not face the fear they might be sued years later by resentful suspects, the justices said.

In the past, the court said trial prosecutors were entitled to absolute immunity for their courtroom work. In Monday's ruling in Van de Kamp vs. Goldstein, the high court extended that shield to cover district attorneys and other chief prosecutors for any actions that involve prosecutions and trials.

Last year, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said top prosecutors could be sued for "administrative" failures. The decision rejected Van de Kamp's claim of immunity and cleared Goldstein's lawsuit to proceed. But the Supreme Court rejected the distinction between administrative and management tasks and said management of trial-related information was a prosecution function.

Read the full article at http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/washingtondc/la-na-supreme-court-prosecute27-2009jan27,0,280362.story.


Doc said...

Our only hope here is that this is what karma is for.

Unknown said...

Hello there,

I just left a comment on this site but the site didn't seem to want to let me leave it..:) So I'll leave another one and you can delete this one if you did actually receive the first :)

I met Todd back in the mid nineties when I, a small town girl from Maine, became engaged to one of his bestfriends in high school. I remember Todd as being this kind, well-spoken, funny guy who could always make me giggle. I recently reconnected with my ex and found out about TOdd. I've spent the past night and this morning pouring through all the articles, the interviews, todd's writings....all of the pain that you, the Newmiller family have been through. I am so sorry that you had to be put through this because of the lack of justice shown to you.

I will continue to read...and continue to talk about Todd's story over here on the East coast. I'd also like to know if there is a way I can correspond with Todd...even if its just him getting my letters (as I'm sure he's very busy as it is). If there is a way...please feel free to email me. Thank you

Amy Richard

William Newmiller said...

Thank you, Amy, for your kind words.

Please try to use the Contact link at the top of the page, which will allow you to provide your email in a non-public way, and we can contact you with Todd's address. He doesn't have Internet access, but he can receive mail, and words of encouragement from people like you always lift his spirits.