John Thompson, the keynote speaker for our convention, has had a lot of experience with the legal system, mostly bad. First, he was convicted of a robbery he did not commit. Then, he was accused of a murder and, because of the robbery conviction, could not testify in his own defense. He was convicted, sentenced to die and sent to Louisiana's notorious Angola state prison. Fourteen years later, just before he was to be executed, an investigator working on the case discovered a crime lab report that the district attorney's office had not provided the defense, proving his innocence of the robbery. Four years later, he went through a new trial on the murder, testified and was acquitted. And, at age 40, 18 years after he was convicted, John Thompson was a free man.
He then sued the district attorney, Harry Connick, and his office for failing to train its prosecutors in their constitutional obligations to provide evidence to the defense. Connick and his office refused to offer a dime in settlement and were eventually rewarded with a $14 million verdict against them, along with another $ 1 million in attorney fees. Not so parenthetically, at least seven other convictions from Connick's office have been reversed because of the failure of prosecutors to turn over relevant evidence. The verdict was upheld on appeal with sixteen judges on the en banc Fifth Circuit splitting down the middle. And now, the Supreme Court is going to hear the case.
In the meantime, our keynoter has not just been sitting around waiting for the money for which he gave up 18 years and most of his youth. He is the founder and director of Resurrection After Exoneration (www.r-a-e.org) and dedicated to assisting others who were wrongfully incarcerated face the challenges of picking up the pieces of their lives.
We are indeed privileged and honored to have him, and look forward to his presentation at the Law for the People Convention in New Orleans. If you haven't already done so, please mark your calendars for Sept 22-26, 2010.
David Gespass NLG President