Wednesday, October 4, 2023
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Prosecutors Immune From Exonerated Man’s Lawsuit

(CN) - Three Monroe County prosecutors aren't liable for withholding the DNA tests results that exonerated a man who was wrongfully imprisoned for 10 years, the 2nd Circuit ruled.

Douglas Warney was convicted of murdering William Beason in 1996, after police allegedly coerced him to give a false confession.

Later, Monroe County District Attorney's office tested the crime scene evidence for DNA. They learned that all non-victim blood samples came from the same man - and it wasn't Warney.

Seventy-two days after receiving the results, prosecutors informed Warney's attorney and interviewed the new suspect to make sure Warney wasn't involved. After spending 10 years behind bars, Warney was exonerated.

He sued the prosecutors, Monroe County and others, claiming his constitutional rights were violated by the 72-day delay in relaying the DNA test results.

The prosecutors moved to dismiss the claims against them, citing absolute prosecutorial immunity.

The district court said the prosecutors weren't entitled to immunity, because they were acting in an "investigative" capacity when they submitted the DNA evidence for testing and withheld the results.

The Manhattan-based federal appeals court disagreed.

"Because the testing was undertaken in connection with post-trial proceedings and was therefore integral to the advocacy function, we hold that the prosecutors enjoy absolute immunity," Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs wrote.

The three-judge panel reversed the district court's denial of prosecutorial immunity and remanded.

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