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Louisiana's shameful history of prosecutorial misconduct

Our justice system was designed in such a way that when it comes to criminal matters, the government alone can prosecute individuals accused of wrongdoing. There were many reasons the system was set up this way, likely including the hope that prosecutors working for the government would be concerned only with seeking justice and not with padding their résumé. In other words, a "win" would be a scenario in which a guilty individual - and only a guilty individual - was convicted.

Unfortunately, there are a number of prosecutors around the country, including here in Louisiana, who seem to be chasing a high conviction rate, even if it means convicting individuals that they know or suspect to be innocent. And when these innocent individuals are eventually exonerated, they often find it difficult or impossible to sue the government over prosecutorial misconduct.

To many criminal defense advocates, former New Orleans district attorney Harry Connick has become the face of this issue. Prosecutors working in his office have been accused of numerous acts of prosecutorial misconduct, including withholding evidence from the defense that could prove that the defendants were innocent. Because of this, an unknown number of wrongfully convicted individuals have spent decades in prison.

Two such victims were Earl Truvia and Gregory Bright, who were convicted of murder in 1975 and were then exonerated in 2002. The two men currently have a petition before the U.S. Supreme Court to allow them to bring a lawsuit against the New Orleans prosecutor's office for constitutional rights violations.

Sadly, if history serves as an indication, the two men are unlikely to be successful. In 2011, the Supreme Court threw out a $14 million jury award given to another Louisiana man wrongfully convicted by prosecutors in Connick's office.

A conviction secured by prosecutors should only be considered an act of justice if the defendant was indeed guilty and if his rights were not violated in securing that conviction. Until or unless we make it possible for wrongfully convicted defendants to sue for violations of their civil rights, prosecutorial misconduct will continue to be a major threat.

Source: The New York Times, "How to Force Prosecutors to Play Fair," Feb. 16, 2015

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Meet Attorney Guillory

Attorney Joshua S. Guillory was born in Alexandria, Louisiana. Upon graduating high school from Alexandria Senior High, he enrolled in classes at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree. Josh was a member of Mu Kappa Tau, a national honor society for marketing majors, while attending... Read More

Joshua S. Guillory

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