Oral arguments have been set before the U.S. Supreme Court for a case out of western Iowa. Two men, whose murder convictions were overturned after they served more than two decades in prison, are suing former Pottawattamie County prosecutors. Curtis McGhee and Terry Harrington served 25 years in prison for the killing of a retired police officer.
Evidence came to light that the prosecution knowingly used false testimony coerced from a 16-year-old witness and the Iowa Supreme Court set aside the convictions. University of Iowa law professor Todd Pettys says the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the men can seek damages.
"The issue that’s in front of the court is simply deciding whether the prosectors are immune from liability," Pettys said. The nation’s highest court will hear the case on November 4th. Pettys and his students are following the case. "As the law stands now, what a prosecutor does during trial can not be a basis of a lawsuit against that prosecutor," Pettys explained.
But, he says the Iowa case differs because the testimony was obtained long before trial as part of a law enforcement investigation. Pettys expects a split decision. He says there’s nothing in the record of the new Justice Sonia Sotomayor to indicate how she might rule in the case.