Ms. Denise LeBoeuf's accusations ("Going Out Fighting," Nov. 19) are incorrect. During my term in office, only one capital murder case has been reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court for prosecutor error. In that case, State vs. Curtis Kyles, 15 judges sitting in five different courts on eight separate occasions reviewed the facts presented in Kyles and found no error on the part of prosecutors. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a very divided opinion, decided a new legal standard for reviewing this issue. Ms. Leboeuf failed to mention that this is one case of the more than 10,000 appeals processed during my term as district attorney.
Likewise, there were no allegations of misconduct in John Thompson's capital murder conviction. In an unrelated attempted armed robbery conviction, it was alleged that a former prosecutor, who died subsequent to the trial, admitted to a colleague that he withheld exculpatory information in the armed robbery case. Upon learning of this allegation, I personally requested the court to set aside the armed robbery conviction and initiated a grand jury investigation into the specific allegations of misconduct. I also reported the former prosecutors responsible for acts of misconduct to the Louisiana Bar Association for disciplinary action.
--District Attorney Harry Connick
The Art of the Matter
Ms. Suzanne Terrell advocates elimination of funding for the arts ("Cashing Out," Scuttlebutt, Nov. 5). It's a big mistake to cut an industry vital to the very core of Louisiana's international image, culture, prestige and considerable contributions to the performing and visual arts world. Our arts industry is strong and getting stronger thanks to the investments made over the last 10 years by our elected officials. We are clearly contributing far more to the economy through jobs, taxes, and goods and services than we receive through grants. Arts education has also been proven to enhance overall academic achievement. The arts are a business, and we have proven to be "good business" for Louisiana as well.
Since Terrell is quoted as using the phrase "funding arts that many people find offensive to their sensibilities," she must be referring to the familiar flap about controversial art like Robert Mapplethorpe's and others. That's an old argument, and I find it most disappointing and out of touch. We have been down this road before. While abuses have occurred in the past, steps have been taken to safeguard against further abuse. Arts recipients, by and large, are responsible stewards of this funding. Hasn't she been advised by her handlers what a remarkable job the arts industry in our state has performed due to this increased investment? Beating up on an industry so inextricably woven into the very fabric of Louisiana life and culture is bizarre and makes one wonder who is running her campaign. Obviously not someone from Louisiana!
I find this most disturbing. I hope she has either been quoted out of context or would take the time to clarify her position on this issue. Since this election is so important and so close, I ask all in the media to please ask Ms. Terrell to clarify her statement. While you are at it, please ask Ms. Landrieu to state her opinion on arts funding, as Gambit reports she failed to answer the survey. Dodging the issue won't do either. At least Ms. Terrell is addressing the issue of arts funding, albeit not in an informed manner.
--Dennis G. Assaf
Executive, Artistic Director
Jefferson Performing Arts Society
Tossing the Bouquet
Notwithstanding your recent bouquet to Historic Restoration Inc. (Nov. 26) for its Phoenix Award for developing abandoned urban areas, the timing was atrocious. Your issue came out a few days after the City Council heard united opposition from all affected contiguous neighborhoods as well as former residents of St. Thomas. The only voices raised in support of HRI's newest development came from a fellow businessman, a college academic, and a former resident who received tens of thousands of dollars for his assistance and his wife.
American Can may prove to be a worthy development, but the new St. Thomas with its ugly, suburbanized Wal-Mart sprawl and enormous asphalt/concrete parking lot is an abomination. This prime piece of real estate could have been a boon to the city, the former residents and the neighborhoods if it had been marketed correctly nationally and if the smaller-scale businesses called for in the HOPE VI grant had been established. Instead, the city is aiding and abetting the capricious whims of the wealthiest corporation in this country and diverting much-needed city taxes to prop up a for-profit, private development.
The city and its people are now stuck with a colossus that suburban governments no longer want -- think of Mandeville. We can only hope that the federal courts will rid us of this monstrosity and reverse the sorry stance that the City Council has inflicted upon the citizens of this great city.
Stand in the Fire
Thanks so much for Scott Jordan's poignant article regarding Warren Zevon's affection for south Louisiana ("Another Side of Warren Zevon," Set Break, Nov. 12). It's been my experience that the truest measure of a person's character can be seen during times of crisis. It's clear from Mr. Zevon's responses to life's most difficult moments (whether his own or those of friends) that he is a man of courage and compassion. I think that all of us -- musicians and non-musicians, Southerners and Northerners, and everyone in between -- can learn a lot from him.