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Accountability? For the Powerful? This Is Not Supposed to Happen!

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It says something about the general failure to hold people with power in the criminal justice system accountable that a 10-day prison sentence for a former prosecutor who willfully deprived an innocent man of his liberty for a quarter century feels like a victory rather than an insult.

And as Atrios notes, the fact that the conviction of an innocent man means that a guilty person remains at large sort of gives away the law-and-order show. The key, I think, is something that one of the Harry Callahans George W. Bush appointed to the Supreme Court said at oral argument as a prelude to another case in which a bare Republican majority of the Court upholding total immunity for prosecutors who act illegally to put innocent people in prison:

The Court recently heard oral arguments in a case called Pottawattamie County v. McGhee, which involved a case in which a prosecutor procured false testimony and then introduced it at trial. The case was settled before the Court issued a ruling, but during oral argument Chief Justice John Roberts twice fretted about the alleged “chilling effect” on prosecutors of not maintaining absolute immunity for prosecutorial actions at trial.

Yes, removing total immunity from prosecutors will have a “chilling effect” on their willingness to, say, willfully introduce false evidence. Uh, good? But being a “law & order” type means seeing unchecked prosecutorial and police power as a positive end in itself.

If you haven’t already, you should really read this Texas Monthly article on the Morton case, which is amazing and chilling reporting.

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