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The Supreme Court says a man who was wrongly convicted and spent 24 years in prison may not sue the former Los Angeles district attorney and his chief deputy for violating his civil rights.

The justices, ruling unanimously Monday, say decisions of supervising prosecutors, like the actions of prosecutors at trial, are shielded from civil lawsuits.

In this case, Thomas Goldstein was convicted of a 1979 murder on the strength of a jailhouse informant's testimony that Goldstein had confessed to the crime. The informant testified he received no benefit in return, but evidence that came to light later suggested he had struck a deal to get a lighter sentence.

Goldstein sued former District Attorney John K. Van de Kamp and his former chief deputy, Curt Livesay, claiming that as managers they had a policy of relying on jailhouse informants even though it sometimes led to false evidence.

In this case, the federal appeals court in San Francisco said Van de Kamp and Livesay did not enjoy the absolute immunity from lawsuits that is given to prosecutors because they were acting as administrators, not prosecutors, in failing to put in place a system that would allow information about informants to be shared in their office.

The case is Van de Kamp v. Goldstein, 07-854.




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