Thursday, January 12, 2012

Worst. Judge. Ever.

I want to take a break from the Republican Primary, if I may, and focus on an issue of injustice on our nation's highest court.  I'm talking about Clarence Thomas.  That's right, good old "Uncle Thomas."  Nobody butchers the reading of the Constitution more than Justice Thomas.  Last March we wrote a post about a highly controversial Supreme Court decision authored by Justice Thomas where he decided that a Black man (John Thompson) had no right to sue the New Orleans District Attorney's office that had wrongfully convicted and imprisoned him for 18 years after it was discovered that the District Attorney's office had intentionally buried evidence that would have proved the man's innocence.  It doesn't get much lower than that.  In one of the most bizarre and illogical decisions ever handed down by the Supreme Court (which is really saying something), Justice Thomas, writing for the majority, said that John Thompson could not sue the New Orleans prosecutor's office because he could not prove that there was a "pattern" of hiding evidence committed by the prosecutor's office in other cases besides his own.

Tuesday of this week, the Supreme Court decided yet another case involving evidence that was hidden during a criminal trial by none other than...wait for it...the New Orleans prosecutor's office!  Once again, New Orleans prosecutors committed what is known in the legal world as a "Brady Violation"1 by hiding evidence that could have overturned somebody's murder conviction.  In this case, it was a Black man by the name of Juan Smith.  In addition to hiding the evidence in these two cases, the Orleans Public Defender's Office reports that the New Orleans prosecutor's office has hidden evidence in 28 cases.  28!

You were saying something about a pattern?


28 Brady violations, yet Justice Thomas could not see any "pattern" of Brady violations in last year's case against John Thompson, which begs the question of whether Clarence Thomas understands what the word "pattern" means.

In the case decided this week, Smith v. Cain, the issue presented to the Supreme Court was whether the evidence hidden by the prosecutor's office was "material" as that term has been defined by the Supreme Court.  8 of the 9 Justices agreed in this case that the hidden evidence was material to Juan Smith's conviction.  In other words, they agreed that there is a "reasonable probability" that Mr. Smith's trial may have turned out differently had the hidden evidence been presented to the jury.  8 out of 9 Justices agreed on this point.  You get 1 guess as to who the 1 dissenting Justice was here.

That's right.  Clarence Thomas.

Justice Thomas wrote a 19-page dissent (4 times as long as Chief Justice John Roberts' 4-page majority opinion) arguing that a higher standard should apply here in order to overturn the prosecutor's murder conviction.  According to Thomas, it is not enough that the hidden evidence creates a "reasonable probability" that Juan Smith's trial might have turned out differently; the hidden evidence must outweigh the non-hidden evidence and prove that Juan Smith would "more likely than not" have received a different verdict.

Fortunately for all of us in the general public who may be wrongly accused of a crime some day like Juan Smith and John Thompson, Chief Justice Roberts clapped back on Justice Thomas, correcting his misunderstanding of the law.  Roberts wrote in the majority opinion:
We have explained that “evidence is ‘material’ within the meaning of Brady when there is a reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed, the result of the proceeding would have been different.”  A reasonable probability does not mean that the defendant “would more likely than not have received a different verdict with the evidence,” only that the likelihood of a different result is great enough to “undermine confidence in the [conviction].”  - C.J. Roberts, Smith v. Cain, 565 U.S. ____ (2012).

In translation: "Thomas my dear fellow conservative friend, let me help you out here because, once again, you simply do not know what the F*#@ you're talking about."


QUESTIONS:
1. Is there anybody out there who still feels that Clarence Thomas was a great choice for the Supreme Court?
2. Why does Thomas automatically take the side of the prosecution on cases like these?
3. Given that this is the second time within a year that the United States Supreme Court has had to review the misconduct of the New Orleans prosecutor's office for hiding evidence, at some point does Thomas have to simply admit that he completely pulled that lack of "pattern" ruling out of his ass?
4. Given that these cases tend to involve a criminal justice system that is already unfair towards Blacks, do you feel that Clarence Thomas has personally taken the Black community a few steps backward since he was appointed to the Supreme Court?
5. Should we have some kind of rule where a Supreme Court Justice is automatically removed from the bench if they continuously keep getting the law wrong over and over again?




1 - A reference to the 1963 landmark Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, where the Court held that prosecutors must hand over all evidence in their possession to a criminal defendant, especially if the evidence is in the defendant's favor.
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