The Right Not To Be Framed


Via OTB, here’s an NPR story about a couple of guys who were framed for a murder they didn’t commit and are now suing local prosecutors in the case for misconduct.  The prosecutors are claiming absolute immunity from suit:

The Supreme Court has indeed said that prosecutors are immune from suit for anything they do at trial. But in this case, Harrington and McGhee maintain that before anyone being charged, prosecutors gathered evidence alongside police, interviewed witnesses and knew the testimony they were assembling was false.

The prosecutors counter that there is “no freestanding constitutional right not to be framed.” Stephen Sanders, the lawyer for the prosecutors, will tell the Supreme Court on Wednesday that there is no way to separate evidence gathered before trial from the trial itself. Even if a prosecutor files charges against a person knowing that there is no evidence of his guilt, says Sanders, “that’s an absolutely immunized activity.”

Well, yeah, there’s no actual section in the constitution that says, “The right of the people not to be framed shall not be abridged.”  And prosecutorial immunity is a longtime staple of common law.  But deliberately framing someone with evidence you know to be faulty?  Maybe the law is an ass, but one way or another, that just has to be wrong.