Friday, March 2, 2012

Press release: DA declines to prosecute two high-profile murder cases for lack of evidence

Posted By on Fri, Mar 2, 2012 at 1:49 PM

Narkee Hunter, one of four persons of interest police identified in connection with the murder of one-year-old Kiera Holmes, and Marvin Carter, the man arrested for the mass French Quarter shooting, will not be prosecuted, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office says in a press release. Cannizzaro blames lack of sufficient evidence in both cases.

On Hunter: "To even consider initiating prosecution in a murder case, prosecutors — at a minimum — must have at least one of the following: an eyewitness; physical evidence linking the suspect to the crime; or a confession. In the case against Hunter, none of the aforementioned categories of evidence existed."

On Carter: "The case against Hunter [note: this appears to be a typo and should read "Carter"] was based on the testimony of a single witness. However, the Grand Jury pretermitted — that is declined to make a decision — on the case."

New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Ronal Serpas, responding to the news today, said that police make arrests based on probable cause, not whether there is evidence to convict beyond a reasonable doubt.

"[NOPD and the District Attorney] are all in this together," Serpas said. He said the department is willing to do more work to make sure it delivers prosecutable cases to Cannizzaro but added that police need help from citizens, in the form of tips and willing witnesses.

The feds, however, have pursued a case against Hunter, along with Terrious Owney, who was also identified as a person of interest in Holmes' murder. Online records from the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office show that Tyrone Knockum, also identified by police in connection the toddler's death, was booked for murder. A fourth possible suspect, Charles Anderson, was shot to death in December.

(Read the full release after the jump)

District Attorney’s Office Declines to Initiate Prosecution Against Narkee Hunter and Marvin Carter in Two High Profile Murder Cases
District Attorney Expresses Frustration at Lack of Community Participation

(New Orleans, LA) — On Wednesday, the District Attorney’s office declined to initiate prosecution against Narkee Hunter. Today, the office declined to initiate prosecution against Marvin Carter.

On February 1, 2012, Hunter was arrested on one count of First Degree Murder and one count of Attempted First Degree Murder. The charges arose out of the murder of infant Kiera Holmes on Sunday, December 18, 2011, in the 3300 block of Erato Street. To even consider initiating prosecution in a murder case, prosecutors — at a minimum — must have at least one of the following: an eyewitness; physical evidence linking the suspect to the crime; or a confession. In the case against Hunter, none of the aforementioned categories of evidence existed.

The District Attorney’s office is still screening the case against Tyrone Knockum. With respect to Hunter or any other possible suspects, the District Attorney’s office considers the case to be open and will review any new evidence brought forth by the police department or the community.

On November 4, 2011, Marvin Carter was arrested on one count of First Degree Murder. The charge arose out of the Halloween night shooting on Bourbon Street in which eight people were shot and Albert Glover was murdered. The case against Hunter was based on the testimony of a single witness. However, the Grand Jury pretermitted — that is declined to make a decision — on the case.

The District Attorney’s office still considers this an open case and will file charges if new evidence is brought forth by the police or the community.

In response, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said, “If we are going to solve this problem — if we are going to convict those individuals responsible for this city’s record murder rate, then my prosecutors must have evidence that they can take into court. While anonymous tips, rumor and innuendo may constitute a basis for arrest, they are insufficient for me to use in trial where we must prove our cases beyond a reasonable doubt. The murder of Kiera Holmes occurred in broad daylight in a populated courtyard. The murder of Albert Glover occurred on a busy section of Bourbon Street. I refuse to believe that no one saw what happened. While I am not afraid to prosecute tough cases, the entire criminal justice system is impotent without the assistance of the community and physical evidence. If the community wants to solve this problem, then it must recognize — both individually and collectively — that it is an indispensable component of the solution. While I recognize that for some this may be very difficult, nothing worth achieving — such as the safety of our community — is ever easy to obtain. If not for our community — if not for yourself, then please help us for the sake of our children and the generations that will follow us. Their futures — and ultimately, their lives — depend on it.”

The District Attorney’s office under Leon Cannizzaro’s administration accepts in excess of 85% of the cases brought to it by the police department. District Attorney Cannizzaro has frequently been criticized for this high acceptance rate, which under the administrations of his predecessors averaged approximately 55%.

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