Death row exoneree calls for federal investigation of Orleans Parish District Attorney

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - John Thompson was freed in 2003 after serving 14 years in Angola State Prison, wrongfully convicted of capital murder by District Attorney Harry Connick, Sr.'s Office. But Thompson's fight is not over yet.

Tuesday morning, Thompson will hold a press conference at the Resurrection After Exoneration building on 1212 St. Bernard, just outside of the French Quarter. He will be formally filing a complaint, petitioning the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, to investigate "individual and systemic abuses of prosecutorial power in Orleans Parish."

The complaint describes a "disturbing pattern of lawlessness, corruption, and prosecutorial misconduct" by the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office. It says there's a "critical need for this investigation to remedy and prevent terrible injustices," claiming prosecutors are abusing their power and "recklessly violating the constitutional rights of defendants (the majority of them indigent) and creating wrongful convictions in Orleans Parish."

Thompson claims that there are hundreds of others just like him, rotting away in Louisiana prisons. "We cannot knowingly let the constitution be violated and have people wrongfully executed, nor wrongfully incarcerated... If the Department of Justice doesn't investigate, it doesn't seem America cares about people like us."

In Thompson's petition letter, he specifically pointed out former New Orleans prosecutor, Jim Williams, who now has a practice in Gretna. Thompson says, "Jim Williams tortured me and tried to kill me... I feel like the victim of an attempted murder where everyone knows who was responsible, and no one has seen fit to hold them accountable."

He also puts blame on Harry Connick Sr. and alleges that current Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro "is absolutely one of the men who learned from Harry Connick's prosecutors" and "the poor of New Orleans still live in terror of the sort of lawlessness that brutalized me and my family."

Thompson asks that the Department of Justice, at the very least, begin investigating Jim Williams and "prevent future injustice."

Thompson concluded his petition letter saying if the DOJ doesn't do anything "then can people like me really expect justice under law in America?"

Thompson sued the prosecutors involved with his case in federal court, and was initially awarded $14 million in 2007, but the U.S. Supreme Court later reversed it in a 5-4 decision. He "regards the United States Department of Justice as his last hope for justice under law for himself."

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