Supreme Court

Sad Follow-Up to a Prior Snell Author Talk

Those who follow Snell Library’s Meet the Author Series may remember author John Hollway’s discussion of his book, Killing Time, the story of an innocent man’s 14 years on death row and how he came to be found innocent and released. At the time of the talk, the Supreme Court was due to hear a civil case brought by the innocent man, John Thompson, and his attorneys against the New Orleans prosecutor’s office that was found to have withheld evidence in the original case, evidence that would have led to his acquittal but whose suppression meant he lost all those years of his life to unjust prison time. A local jury awarded him $14 million to compensate for the time he spent on death row, and appeals courts upheld the award, all the way to the Supreme Court. A sad update this week, however, as the Supreme Court handed down its 5-4 decision overturning the monetary award, stating the prosecutor’s office could not be held responsible for the “bad actions” of a single person, even though it has been shown that the office had a clear pattern of violations of the rules for handling evidence and was obviously not training its prosecutors in correct procedures — and even though all the lower appeals courts had upheld the local decision that the prosecutor’s office was responsible. Commentators around the news media are outraged by the decision; for examples, see this New York Times op-ed or this piece in According to the Facebook page for the book (which by the way offers more links to additional media coverage of the decision, as well as to the text of the decision itself), “Now the only remedy that any of us has for prosecutorial misconduct is a complaint to the State Bar Association — which, in most states, you can only make if you are admitted to the Bar yourself.” This is a grim outcome for all of us, not just John Thompson.

Killing Time author John Hollway kills it at Snell!

To begin, let me say that if you missed this author talk with John Hollway, you missed something pretty special. The passion coming from both John and his audience was intense and a lot of important issues were covered. For those of you who were unable to make it but want to experience the presentation, try checking out the Library’s Meet The Author YouTube channel, where all previous Meet The Author presentations are uploaded for you to enjoy. This talk will be added shortly.

John’s telling of a true story about a man being unjustly sent to death row and then released 18 years later evoked many questions, one especially important one being, “If it happened to him, how many others are there?” Not only that but how many we don’t know about. When I thought about this, I kind of had a flash and thought of the film Law Abiding Citizen and how the justice system doesn’t actually provide justice under many circumstances. After hearing everything about the story, I wouldn’t doubt a movie on this book will come out in the very near future with a lot of the same themes, maybe less time killing people though.

The civil case for negligence damages for this particular victim of the justice system is heading to the Supreme Court later this fall, so keep an eye on the Facebook page, “Killing Time by John Hollway and Ronald M. Gauthier” for more info. Be sure not to miss out on future Meet The Author events by checking back on the blog or going to the Library’s News & Events page.