Court to decide if prosecutors can be sued
Mon Apr 20, 10:19 am ET
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court will consider whether prosecutors have to face a lawsuit from two men whose convictions for killing a retired police officer were set aside.
The justices said Monday they'll hear an appeal in the fall from former Pottawattamie County, Iowa, prosecutors.
They are being sued by Curtis W. McGhee Jr., and Terry Harrington, who were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in 1978 for the death of retired police officer John Schweer.
The men were released from prison after 25 years. Evidence showed police and prosecutors had failed to share evidence that pointed to another man as a possible suspect in Schweer's slaying. Some witnesses also recanted their testimony.
McGhee and Harrington filed lawsuits against the former prosecutors, including former County Attorney Dave Richter and his assistant Joseph Hrvol. They claimed authorities were eager to charge someone and that they were targeted because they are black. They also sued current County Attorney Matt Wilber after he suggested the right men had been convicted.
Richter and Hrvol argued that they were immune from lawsuits because they were acting within the scope of their job. Federal courts, however, rejected their motions to dismiss the lawsuits, saying the immunity did not extend to them.
The case is Pottawattamie County v. McGhee, 08-1065.
I have always been a fan of law and order. What do we do though when the law is not following the rules?
There is a bit of slippery slope here in that we cannot have prosecutors afraid to do their jobs.
When they intentionally prosecute a man, or men in this case, who they have information that may show their innocence what then? Obviously criminal cases are not clear cut but there are times when the evidence for their innocence outweighs the innocence of their guilt. Should they be allowed to ignore this, bury the evidence, and proceed with a miscarriage of justice?
In a civilized society we need to keep bad people off of the street so they cannot continue to harm others. In a just society the person locked away should be the person who commited the crime.
A victim deserves justice but these men lost 25 years of their lives to a prosecuter that may have broken the rules. They were locked in a cage for a quarter of a century for a crime they may not have committed. This is not justice.
Finally, these may have been bad men. Maybe they committed other crimes, or would have. Maybe the prosecutor ultimately saved us from them. Maybe they committed this crime. Doesn't fairness say they have a right to a fair trial to prove their innocence though?
As strong as I am on law and order, I would like to see the SCOTUS rule in the favor of the convicted men. Real justice demands that the prosecutors follow the same rules of society that they are charged with ensuring we do.