Oral argument: Nov. 4, 2009
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit (Nov. 21, 2008)
DUE PROCESS, IMMUNITY, PERJURY, FABRICATED EVIDENCE
In 2005, Curtis W. McGhee and Terry J. Harrington, both convicted of murder in 1978, sued Pottawattamie County, Iowa, and former county attorneys Joseph Hrvol and David Richter under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging, inter alia, that the Pottawattamie prosecutors coerced false testimony from third party witnesses and then introduced that testimony in their murder trials. The prosecutors argued that they were immune from the lawsuit based on the doctrine of absolute immunity, but both the district court and the Eighth Circuit disagreed. The Supreme Court’s decision will reveal the extent to which prosecutors are immune from liability for their pre-trial misconduct. This clarification may affect the way prosecutors try cases, and will, undoubtedly, influence the degree to which defendants can hold their prosecutors accountable for due process violations.