The Life and Legacy of John Thompson

As many of you may know, after 10 years of dedicated service, Brigitt Keller has moved on from her position as Executive Director of the NLG’s National Police Accountability Project (NPAP).

We’re pleased to introduce Alison McCrary (NLG Louisiana) as her successor!
Welcome, Alison!

By Alison McCrary, National Police Accountability Project Executive Director

With deep sadness I share that death row exonoree and government accountability warrior, John Thompson (or “J.T”. as he was known to those who knew him) transitioned to be with the Creator October 3 after a heart attack. I was with him, his wife, and another exonoree at University Medical Center in New Orleans when he took his final breath. Other NPAP and NLG members and friends gathered at my home and Voice of the Experienced in New Orleans to share and remember him.

While words cannot do justice to the life of integrity he lived, many know of him through his U.S. Supreme Court case Thompson v. Connick, presentations, interviews, documentary films, and the book Killing Time. But John was much more than his time on death row, his multiple scheduled executions, his exoneration, his founding of the non-profit Resurrection After Exoneration, his litigation to seek justice and accountability, and his $14 million award that the Supreme Court later reversed.

John had the courage to look face-to-face at those who tried to kill him and called for them to be held accountable. He demanded independent oversight in all facets of the criminal justice system. John called on leaders in legal community to end prosecutorial misconduct. He modeled for us how to help others and prevent the next wrongful conviction. He worked for an abolition to the death penalty and rather than just moving on with life after his release, he wholeheartedly dedicated every day to making change happen. John was a passionate warrior for justice who never gave up hope. Even though he spent 14 years on death row, after his exoneration he would still ride three hours up to Angola Prison with me to visit his old friends on the weekends. I had the great privilege of spending many days and nights with him at the Resurrection After Exoneration house caring for and hospicing other exonorees to their last days, travelling together to conferences and prisons, conversing on many multi-hour long phone calls about how to change the system, planning events around accountability for misconduct, and just knowing him and calling him colleague and friend. I know many NPAP members also share meaningful memories of him and other directly-impacted people who deepened our commitment to this work.

He taught us a lot about life, struggle, courage, hope, resilience, and finding joy and laughter while in the struggle for justice. John was a man of deep wisdom, profound insights, unwavering commitment, and great humor. The legacy he left and the lives he touched will continue to guide us and show us a way forward as we re-commit even more to continue the work we do together. For those who’d like to read more about his story, case, and life, see these pieces in The New York Times and New Orleans Advocate.

In honor the legacy and work of John Thompson and to expand our community of those who work for accountability, for his 55 years of life, we’re offering free trials of a National Police Accountability (NPAP) membership to 55 of your colleagues or friends. Please forward this email to any attorney, legal worker, or law student who may be interested in joining us in the struggle for justice and police accountability and we will begin their free membership trial. Invite them to send a simple email to Zach Phillips at requesting a free trial and he’ll follow up with them.

With you all in the struggle as John Thompson continues to live in and through the work we do every day. ■