Willie Manning’s prosecutor, Forrest Allgood, was implicated by a recanting witness (Kevin Lucious) in Willie’s 1993 case:
“Luscious said District Attorney Forrest Allgood… told Luscious that he would not charge him with capital murder if he cooperated.”
And in Willie’s ongoing 1992 case, Allgood wrongly dismissed African American jurors, and built on the false testimony of the FBI hair expert to suggest to the jury that Willie was in the car belonging to one of the victims.
A recent report from the Fair Punishment Project notes that just five prosecutors are responsible for “roughly 15% of the current death row population nationwide, or approximately one out of every seven individuals on death row.” Commenting on the report, the New York Times concludes:
“the death penalty has been, and continues to be, a personality-driven system with very few safeguards against misconduct and frequent abuse of power, a fact that seriously undermines its legitimacy.”
Despite Radley Balko’s description of Allgood as “[o]ne of America’s worst prosecutors”, he is not among the thirteen “deadly” prosecutors mentioned in the Fair Punishment Project’s report. Nor is Jim Williams, the Louisiana prosecutor who secured wrongful death sentences for John Thompson and others:
“Jim Williams was so zealous in his pursuit of the death penalty that he even posed for a picture with the mini-electric chair on his desk on which he had taped the faces of the men that he had wrongfully sent to death row. The toy electric chair was his trophy for his kills. He posed with it like white men used to pose around the body of a Black man they had lynched.”
After an investigation into Williams and others was halted at the point of indictment, Thompson made his own attempt to hold the prosecutor accountable. He sued the prosecutor’s office, was awarded $14 million by a jury in Louisiana, but then lost his entitlement to it: the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that prosecutors cannot be held liable for their misconduct, even if they deliberately cheat to convict innocent people.
As long as such protection is given to prosecutors who commit what Thomson rightly calls “premeditated attempted murder”, there will be more victims like Willie Manning and John Thompson. Over-generous prosecutorial protection leads to devastated lives and quite possibly even murder. It is time to address what Thompson calls this “totally preventable crime”.