“Prosecutorial Oversight: A National Dialogue in the Wake of Connick v. Thompson,” March 29, 2012

On Thursday, March 29, 2012, the University of Texas School of Law will host a conversation on prosecutorial error and oversight. The event is part of the U.S.-wide tour, “Prosecutorial Oversight: A National Dialogue in the Wake of Connick v. Thompson,” and will be held from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Francis Auditorium (TNH 2.114).

The event will be simulcast for remote viewing at www.prosecutorialoversight.org.

This is the second stop of a national tour created to discuss prosecutorial oversight in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Connick v. Thompson, which substantially limited civil liability claims against prosecutors’ offices for constitutional violations by their personnel, based largely on the premise that existing mechanisms of training, supervision, and discipline internal to the legal profession can be relied upon to ensure prosecutors’ compliance with ethical and legal obligations non-judicial oversight. The tour brings together participants from all aspects of the criminal justice system including legal ethics professors, members of bar disciplinary committees, prosecutors, and judges to assess that premise in light of research on the existence of and response to prosecutorial error in individual jurisdictions. At the end of the tour, the groups will prepare a report with recommendations for reform. 

Thursday’s event will feature remarks by two individuals with first-hand experience of prosecutorial error—Michael Morton, exonerated after serving twenty-five years in prison for the murder of his wife in Williamson County, Texas, and John Thompson, plaintiff in Connick v. Thompson—and a roundtable discussion moderated by UT Law’s Jennifer Laurin, discussing existing oversight mechanisms in Texas, assessing their adequacy, and exploring possible avenues of professional and legislative reform. It will be followed by a question and answer period.

Speakers include:

  • Betty Blackwell—Attorney, former chair of the Texas Commission for Lawyer Discipline
  • Jennifer Laurin (moderator)—Assistant Professor, University of Texas School of Law
  • Jim Leitner—First Assistant District Attorney, Harris County
  • Michael Morton—Freed after twenty-five years in prison in Texas following DNA exoneration and the revelation of concealed exculpatory evidence
  • The Honorable Bob Perkins—Former judge, 331st District Court, Travis County
  • Robert Schuwerk—Professor, University of Houston Law Center, author of leading treatise on Texas rules of professional conduct
  • John Thompson—Founder and Director of Resurrection After Exoneration and Voices of Innocence and plaintiff in Thompson v. Connick, imprisoned in Louisiana for eighteen years (fourteen on death row), freed after revelation of concealed exculpatory evidence
  • Emily West—Research Director, The Innocence Project

Sponsored by the Actual Innocence Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law and the Texas Center for Actual Innocence, as well as national organizations The Innocence Project, The Veritas Initiative, Innocence Project New Orleans, and Resurrection After Exoneration/Voices of Innocence, the event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are encouraged.  Please register by Tuesday, March 27, 2012, by emailing info@prosecutorialoversight.org.

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