(CN) – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Monday that Los Angeles County’s former top prosecutor and his deputy can’t be sued by a man who spent 24 years behind bars based on a jailhouse informant’s faulty testimony.
Former inmate Thomas Lee Goldstein claimed that former District Attorney John Van de Kamp and his deputy obtained Goldstein’s 1980 murder conviction through the false testimony of informant Floyd Fink.
Goldstein claimed that at least some prosecutors in the Los Angeles County District Attorneys Office knew that Fink had received reduced sentences for his testimony, but did not share that information with Goldstein’s attorney.
Goldstein sued the office for failure to properly train and supervise prosecutors. Alternatively, he claimed the office failed to establish an information system containing potential impeachment material about informants.
“We conclude that a prosecutor’s absolute immunity extends to all these claims,” Justice Breyer wrote for the unanimous court.
“We recognize that sometimes it would be easy for a court to determine that an office’s decision about an information system was inadequate,” the justice added. “But the same could be said of a prosecutor’s trial. Immunity does not exist to help prosecutors in the easy case; it exists because the easy cases bring difficult cases in their wake.”
The justices reversed the 9th Circuit’s ruling for Goldstein.