TIME ON DEATH ROW: 14 YEARS
FILM FOCUSES ON: PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT
CONVICTED IN: NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
LEGAL REVIEW: Read a legal review of John’s case
YOUR QUESTIONS: Check out John’s answers to the questions you submitted.
In 1985, John Thompson bought a second-hand gun from a man he knew, unaware that it had been used in the murder of a New Orleans hotel executive. He was arrested for the murder and when his picture appeared in the local media, victims of a carjacking that had taken place several weeks earlier claimed Thompson was the robber. His lawyers were never told there was blood evidence at the scene of the robbery and Thompson was convicted based on the victims’ identification. With the violent crime on his record, he was advised not to testify in his defense at the murder trial, and was found guilty and sentenced to death.
“I remember the judge telling the courtroom the number of volts of electricity they would put into my body. If the first attempt didn’t kill me, he said, they’d put more volts in,” John wrote in a recent New York Times piece.
John was just one month away from being executed when private investigators revealed that during the trial, the prosecutors had failed to disclose the blood evidence. DNA testing revealed that John could not have committed the crime.
After his release, John won a $14 million civil suit against the prosecutor’s office for his wrongful conviction, however that decision was reversed three years later in 2011. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the misconduct in the case was not the result of a deliberate policy or systematic indifference.
Since his release, John has been working to help other wrongfully convicted men and women through his organization Resurrection After Exoneration. “Exonerated prisoners and returning long-term prisoners re-enter the free world with high hopes of a fresh start but are soon trapped in the cycle of poverty and disillusionment that led to their original imprisonment,” John writes in his founder letter. “To enable us to break this cycle, I will create for us a positive understanding of life’s potential and for society an understanding that recidivism (even by exonerees) is caused by lack of opportunity. If returning prisoners succeed, the whole community benefits.”