Supeme Court Won't Decide Prosecutorial Misconduct Immunity Case
Terry Harrington and Curtis W. McGhee Jr. were wrongfully convicted of murder in Iowa and served 25 years. The Iowa Supreme Court vacated their convictions, saying the prosecutors failed to disclose exculpatory evidence of an alternative suspect.
The men then sued in federal court, also alleging the prosecutors had procured false testimony against them. They won on that claim, and the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding a prosecutor’s procurement of false testimony “violates a [criminal defendant’s] substantive due process rights.” The Supreme Court agreed to decide the case and heard oral arguments. The case was Pottawattamie County v. McGhee, 08-1065.
Now, a settlement has been reached. Harrington and McGhee will get $12 million, and the Supreme Court has dismissed the case, meaning no ruling will be forthcoming on whether prosecutors can claim personal immunity for such misdeeds. [More...]
McGhee and Harrington sued, saying that as prosecutors Richter and Hrvol had them arrested without probable cause, coerced and coached witnesses, fabricated evidence against them and concealed evidence that could have cleared them. They claimed authorities were eager to charge someone and that they were targeted because they are black.
...The high court was to decide whether that immunity stretched to the prosecutorial work that happens before the trial begins. Lower courts had said that it did not and had rejected the prosecutors' request to dismiss the lawsuits.
The actual question to be decided:
Whether a prosecutor may be subjected to a civil trial and potential damages for a wrongful conviction and incarceration where the prosecutor allegedly violated a criminal defendant’s “substantive due process” rights by procuring false testimony during the criminal investigation, and then introduced that same testimony against the criminal defendant at trial.
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