UH Law Library's Blog

November 4, 2009

Prosecutorial Immunity: Does Pre-Trial Falsified Evidence Matter?

Filed under: Free Web — Tags: , — uhlawlibrary @ 8:00 am

Nov. 5, 2009 – The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Pottawattamie County v. McGhee (08-1065) earlier today.  Since 1976, (Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409), prosecutors have enjoyed absolute immunity from liability for their official actions during trial.  But how far does the immunity extend?  Does it cover prosecutors’ pre-trial activities?

In 1978, Curtis McGhee and Terry Harrington were convicted of murdering a retired police officer in Pottawattamie County, Iowa.  The men were sentenced to life in prison.  Twenty-five years later, it was revealed that prosecutors had fabricated the testimony of a lead witness.  The Iowa Supreme Court vacated Harrington’s sentence, and McGhee pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for time served.  Both prisoners were freed.

McGhee and Harrington sued the prosecutors and the county officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.  The district court ruled that the prosecutors could be held liable for violating McGhee and Harrington’s substantive due process rights, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed.

Read about the case on SCOTUSblog.


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