Author: Sarah Lambert

[Prosecutor] Jim Williams tortured me and tried to kill me. By plain definition, I am a victim of torture and attempted murder. My mother, my sons, my grandmother were all victims of that torture. They hurt every day that I was locked in a cell on death row and the State was trying to kill me. Now everyone acts as if nothing happened to us. Is it because our lives don’t matter? No-one has been brought to justice for what happened to me, to the scores of others in Louisiana like me and to the thousands of people around the country who have been exonerated. We are victims, we want the perpetrators held to account and no one is doing it.

–John Thompson[1]

John Thompson spent eighteen years in prison—fourteen years on death row—for crimes he did not commit.[2] He was eventually exonerated and released.[3] To date, no one has been held accountable for Thompson’s wrongful imprisonment. His first attempt to hold the prosecutor’s office who wrongfully imprisoned him accountable for withholding exculpatory evidence was eventually denied by the U.S. Supreme Court.[4] Thompson, however, is not giving up hope that prosecutors, including one of the prosecutors in his own case, will be held accountable for unethical—what Thompson calls “arguably criminal”—actions.[5]

On August 2, 2016, Thompson filed a complaint to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) against former Prosecutor Jim Williams and the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office, requesting an investigation.[6] This article provides a brief background of Thompson’s Supreme Court case (Connick v. Thompson) and the existing mechanisms of prosecutorial oversight, details Thompson’s complaint to the DOJ, and discusses possible future implications.

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