Supreme Court Denies $14 Million in Damages to Wrongly Convicted Louisiana Man

Jury gave John Thompson $14 million; the Supreme Court took it away.

ByABC News
March 31, 2011, 6:14 PM

April 1, 2011— -- Fourteen might not be John Thompson's lucky number.

He spent 14 years on death row in Louisiana until a stunning revelation came to light: the prosecution had failed to turn over a police crime lab report that would eventually prove his innocence.

As a free man, Thompson went on to win a $14 million award after a jury found that the Louisiana District Attorney for Orleans Parish had failed to train his prosecutors about their legal obligation to turn over favorable evidence to the defense.

But on Tuesday, Thompson was stripped of the award by a divided Supreme Court.

Thompson says that since he became a free man, not much can make him angry.

"If I wasn't shaken by the seven execution dates I got, or watching my friends on death row die, I can't be shaken by what the world has to offer out here," he said in a recent interview.

But he says that he is angry that the Supreme Court ruling means no one will be held accountable for his years on death row, or his near execution.

"It's not about $14 million, because that was never my money anyway," he said. "People should be worried about what it means: there is no accountability. We just gave prosecutors permission to kill. That's the reality. "

Thompson's odyssey began in 1985 when he was convicted of murder and, in a separate case, attempted armed robbery. He was sentenced to death.

However, just weeks before the execution, Thompson's attorneys discovered that during the trial the prosecution had learned the blood type of the perpetrator. The information was never made available to the defense.

Once Thompson's lawyers discovered the report, they knew he would be found innocent because the blood type of the perpetrator did not match Thompson's.

As a free man, Thompson eventually sued the district attorney's office, run by Harry Connick Sr. (the father of the famous singer). He won $14 million in a civil rights judgment based on the jury's finding that Mr. Connick had been "deliberately indifferent" to the need to train his prosecutors about their legal obligation to turn over evidence that could be favorable to the defense. An appeals court affirmed the district court's ruling.