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Monday, November 9, 2009

Supreme Court hears case on prosecutorial immunity

Last week the Supreme Court heard oral argument in an important snitching case: Pottawattamie County v. McGhee. Two prosecutors are being sued for fabricating evidence -- essentially pressuring a criminal informant until he came up with the story they wanted and then using that story at trial. The issue is whether they have absolute immunity, as prosecutors typically do for trial-related decisions, or whether they were acting more like investigators and therefore would only have qualified immunity from suit. Radley Balko over at Reason has posted this comprehensive discussion of the case and oral argument. For defendants who have been convicted based on fabricated evidence, the only remedy to which they are typically entitled is the overturning of their conviction. See this post: Judge finds prosecutorial misconduct in permitting false informant testimony. A finding that prosecutors who fabricate evidence might be personally liable would significantly alter the dynamic between informants and the government.