High Court Extends Prosecutors’ Legal Protection


The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday threw out a lawsuit by a Los Angeles man wrongfully convicted of murder, giving district attorneys a broad shield against being sued even if their mistakes send an innocent person to prison, reports the Los Angeles Times. Thomas Goldstein, a former Marine convicted in a 1979 shooting, 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 prosecutors, saying they regularly uses jailhouse informants and did not take steps to make sure they were telling the truth. 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. The new case extended that shield to cover district attorneys and other chief prosecutors for any actions that involve prosecutions and trials. It was the fourth decision in a week siding with police and prosecutors.

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