Harry Connick, Sr.
American politician, lawyer, prosecutor, and businessman
Harry Connick, Sr.
Joseph Harry Fowler Connick, Sr. is a New Orleans attorney who is best known for serving as the district attorney of the Parish of Orleans, which contains the City of New Orleans, from 1973 to 2003. His son, Harry Connick, Jr. is a successful singer, pianist, actor, and humanitarian. The elder Connick is a singer, long performing a few nights a week at local clubs as a hobby. He has been outspoken on the use of narcotics and pressed for drug testing of high-school students.
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  • 2010
    Age 83
    The Orleans Parish DA's office appealed and the case, Connick v. Thompson, was orally argued before the U.S. Supreme Court during the October 2010 term. By a 5-4 vote split along ideological lines, the Supreme Court overturned the $14 million award in a decision issued on March 29, 2011.
    More Details Hide Details The majority opinion, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, construed the series of admitted violations to not amount to a pattern of "similar" violations of Brady v. Maryland (1963), and such a pattern was necessary to hold Connick liable for the incompetence of his employees. The dissenting opinion, read from the bench by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, noted that Connick's office had in fact committed a pattern of violations, failing to disclose exculpatory blood type evidence, failing to disclose audio tapes of witness testimony, failing to disclose a deathbed confession of evidence destruction by the prosecuting attorney Gerry Deegan, and failing to disclose eyewitness identification of the killer that did not match Thompson. Ginsburg noted that the office had employee turnover so high a young attorney could advance to a senior supervisory position within four years, thus the office offered little training in ongoing developments in criminal procedure law despite its large number of inexperienced attorneys.
  • 2007
    Age 80
    In 2007, a man named John Thompson, who was wrongfully convicted of murder by Connick's DA office due to evidence withholding, was awarded a $14 million verdict by a federal court jury.
    More Details Hide Details The jury found "that Thompson's 18 years behind bars (14 of which he spent in solitary confinement on death row) were caused by Connick's deliberate failure to train his prosecutors on their obligations to turn over exculpatory evidence."
  • 2003
    Age 76
    In 2003, Connick did not seek re-election and was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield.
    More Details Hide Details There are several allegations of systemic misconduct by Connick and his prosecutors. "According to the Innocence Project, a national organization that represents incarcerated criminals claiming innocence, 36 men convicted in Orleans Parish during Connick's 30-year tenure as DA have made allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, and 19 have had their sentences overturned or reduced as a result." However, Connick has recently defended himself against these claims. John Simerman, in a recent article in the Times-Picayune, reaffirms that, “the sheer number of trials in Orleans Parish criminal court distorts the numbers.” Simerman continues, “In his last five years in office, the courthouse at Tulane and Broad handled nearly 2,200 trials, more than a third of the criminal trials in Louisiana.” Indeed, his office tried about 1,000 cases per year, as compared to the approximate 100 cases per year that the Garrison administration tried.
  • 1995
    Age 68
    In 1995, while District Attorney, Connick promised to the Assassination Records Review Board and at a public meeting in New Orleans that he would donate the Garrison investigative files which were still in his office.
    More Details Hide Details According to the Review Board's final report, Connick reportedly instructed one of his investigators to destroy these documents after he took office. The investigator took them home instead and kept them until he found out about the Review Board. A battle ensued between Connick and the Review Board after Connick demanded that the papers were returned to him and threatening to withhold the investigation papers. After many subpoenas going both ways and with the help of the Justice Department the Review Board won, and all of the documents in question are in the JFK Collection.
  • 1990
    Age 63
    On July 25, 1990, he was acquitted.
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  • 1989
    Age 62
    In 1989, Connick was indicted on racketeering charges for aiding and abetting a gambling operation by returning gambling records to an arrested gambler.
    More Details Hide Details He stated that he returned the records to the man in question because he needed them to file tax returns.
  • 1987
    Age 60
    In 1987, Connick waged an unsuccessful challenge to incumbent William J. "Billy" Guste, Jr. for the position of Louisiana Attorney General.
    More Details Hide Details Guste prevailed over Connick, 516,658 (54%) to 440,984 (46%). Both were registered Democrats, but in Louisiana a general election can feature two members of the same party.
  • 1981
    Age 54
    They also had a daughter, Suzanna, and a son, Harry, Jr. Anita Connick died of ovarian cancer, aged 55, in 1981.
    More Details Hide Details Connick later married Londa Jean Matherne. Connick is the uncle of Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick and State Representative Patrick Connick, also of Jefferson Parish. Connick was and continues to be very involved in New Orleans music and culture. In 1993, he and his son were part of the group that founded Orpheus, a superkrewe that participates in annual Mardi Gras parades. He was nicknamed "The Singing District Attorney" by Time magazine. This nickname was given to him because he spent many nights singing in clubs in the French Quarter, including Maxwell's Toulouse Cabaret.
  • 1973
    Age 46
    In 1973 Connick defeated incumbent New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison who had recently been tried and acquitted of corruption charges.
    More Details Hide Details As district attorney, he was the defendant and petitioner in Connick v. Myers, a free speech case in public employment law. In the case, Connick asked Sheila Myers to take a transfer to another position in his office. She had resisted, finally saying she would consider it after a meeting with Connick. Later the same day she distributed a questionnaire on issues of employee morale to her fellow prosecutors, after which Connick fired her. Myers sued in federal court alleging Connick violated her First Amendment rights by firing her. He maintained she had been fired for refusing the transfer, but judge Jack Gordon of the Eastern District of Louisiana held that the distribution of the questionnaire was speech on a matter of public concern and thus constitutionally protected. Since the facts indicated to him that Myers had been fired for it, he ordered her reinstated. After the Fifth Circuit affirmed Gordon, the Supreme Court granted certiorari and narrowly reversed the ruling, holding that Myers' questionnaire largely touched on matters internal to the office that were not of public concern and thus she was lawfully fired.
  • 1926
    Born on March 27, 1926.
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