The memory of John Thompson lives on, still fighting for accountability
A Washington Post opinion article entitled "For those freed after wrongful convictions, gratitude is a lot to ask" concludes by recalling author Radley Balko's interview with WTI member John Thompson before his passing in 2017. Balko writes:
"John Thompson, acquitted in 2003 after serving years on death row, had it right. Thompson survived seven death warrants and was days from execution when a defense investigator finally uncovered the evidence that exonerated him — evidence the state of Louisiana had hidden for years. Though the New Orleans DA’s office that convicted him had a long and sordid history of misconduct, the only prosecutor ever disciplined in Thompson’s case was the man who helped expose the others’ misconduct.
A jury would award Thompson $14 million, before the Supreme Court took it all away in an opinion that essentially shielded prosecutors and the cities that employ them from any liability whatsoever, even when they engage in blatant misconduct and convict the wrong person.
Thompson wasn’t grateful for his exoneration; he was angry about his conviction. He didn’t thank the system for clearing his name; he damned it for nearly executing him.
“They tried to kill me,” Thompson once told me in an interview. “To apologize would mean they’re admitting the system is broken. That everyone around them is broken. It’s the same motherf---ing system that’s protecting them. What would I do with their apology anyway? Sorry. Huh. Sorry you tried to kill me? Sorry you tried to commit premeditated murder? No. No, thank you. I don’t need your apology.”
We should all be as angry as John Thompson. Instead, when we learn that a conviction like his — or like Maye’s or Syed’s or thousands of others — has been overturned, the system has conditioned us to show . . . gratitude.
It’s a hell of a trick."
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