(CN) – A New Orleans man who spent 18 years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit was rightfully awarded $14 million in damages, the 5th Circuit ruled.
John Thompson spent 14 of those years in solitary confinement. He was one month away from execution before his investigators found the evidence to clear him.
The district attorney’s office withheld blood evidence that would have acquitted Thompson of an armed robbery charge. Thompson did not testify on his own behalf in the case of the murder of Raymond Liuzza Jr., because the armed robbery conviction would have been admitted into evidence.
Assistant District Attorney Gerry Deegan admitted that he had withheld the evidence after he discovered he was dying of cancer.
The federal appeals court in New Orleans ruled that the $14 million award was not excessive, noting that Thompson:
– missed his sons’ childhoods
– missed the chance to marry his girlfriend, who married someone else
– witnessed multiple rapes in prison and feared becoming a victim himself
– watched his friends go off to be executed, and had six execution dates of his own; and
– spent 23 hours a day in a smelly 6-by-9-foot cell with no windows or air conditioning.