When prosecutors cheat and lie repeatedly to win convictions, should their office be held accountable?
When a man spends years, or decades, in prison as a result of such prosecutorial misconduct, should he be compensated?
These are not trick questions.
And yet in a bizarre 2011 ruling, five justices of the Supreme Court managed to answer no to both, essentially closing off one of the only ways to hold prosecutors and their offices liable for wrongdoing.
In a new petition before the court, two Louisiana men who were exonerated after 27 years behind bars are asking the justices to review their case and allow them to sue the New Orleans prosecutor’s office for money damages for violating their constitutional rights. If the justices agree to hear the petition, they could undo some of the harm they did in 2011 and help cure what one federal appellate judge has called an “epidemic” of prosecutorial misconduct across the country.