Court: Qualified Immunity Protects DA Who Lied To State Legislators About A Wrongfully-Convicted Man
Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine in United States federal law that shields government officials from being sued for discretionary actions performed within their official capacity, unless their actions violated "clearly established" federal law or constitutional rights. Qualified immunity thus protects officials who "make reasonable but mistaken judgments about open legal questions," but does not protect "the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law".
Sometimes it protects law enforcement when they knowingly violate the law.
It's not just abusive cops that benefit from qualified immunity. It's also vindictive district attorneys, like the one in a recent case [PDF] reviewed by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. A man falsely accused of kidnapping and rape spent seven years in prison for a crime he didn't commit before being exonerated by a DNA test. The results of this test were given to district attorney Spencer Lawton, who confirmed the results. The conviction was vacated and the state wisely decided not to take another prosecutorial pass at the falsely accused man.
So far, so good, except for the seven years of freedom wrongfully taken from Douglas Echols. When lawmakers introduced a bill offering compensation for Echol's wrongful imprisonment, Spencer Lawton decided to start lying.