John Thompson spent 18 years in prison for a robbery and murder he did not commit, 14 of them on death row in solitary confinement in the infamous Angola prison in Louisiana. He was exonerated after evidence covered up by New Orleans prosecutors surfaced after his seventh and final execution date was issued for May 20, 1999.
John was arrested in 1985 in New Orleans for the murder of Ray Liuzza, a hotel executive from a prominent family, convicted, and sent to death row at Angola prison. He was arrested based on the false testimony of Kevin Freeman, who had sold the victim’s ring and the gun used in the murder to John, but implicated him the murder. This, coupled with an accusation that John had been involved in an earlier robbery, got him a death sentence. John then retained on appeal pro bono lawyers Michael Banks and Gordon Cooney, from the Philadelphia blue-chip law firm of Morgan Lewis. By 1999, they had exhausted all appeals. Amazingly, an investigator they had hired looked through the evidence one last time found a report sent to the prosecutors 15 years prior and suppressed by them that refuted that John’s blood type matched that of the earlier robbery, as well as the names of witnesses and police reports that cast severe doubt on the prosecution’s case – 10 pieces in all. Thus, the robbery conviction was thrown out, and a retrial was ordered on the murder case. In 2003, a jury took only 35 minutes to acquit John.
John was subsequently awarded a 14 million dollar settlement for prosecutorial misconduct in his case, which was overturned by a divided US Supreme Court decision, Connick v. Thompson, in 2011. Nevertheless, John has devoted his time and attention to helping other wrongfully convicted men by establishing Resurrection After Exoneration, a non-profit dedicated to providing reentry services. He is also the recipient of a prestigious Soros Fellowship to help launch a project to fight prosecutorial impunity in our justice system. John lives in New Orleans with his wife Laverne, and often jokes that the prosecution may rest, but he won’t until his work is no longer needed.