Crime

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Getting smart on crime

Posted By on Sun, Mar 19, 2017 at 2:54 PM

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Louisiana lawmakers will struggle to make sense of our state’s fiscal mess when they convene next month, and that struggle will overshadow all other pressing matters. Yet there’s one overarching issue on which legislators of all stripes ought to agree: the need for meaningful criminal justice reform.

Reforming Louisiana’s criminal justice system is actually a fiscal issue. We spend way too much money incarcerating nonviolent offenders — upwards of $700 million a year on corrections. That cost has gotten so out of hand that sentencing reform has become a rallying point for a growing number of conservative Republicans. More need to get on board.

Locking up nonviolent offenders doesn’t make us tough on crime, it makes us dumb on crime — because it turns nonviolent people into hardened criminals while they’re behind bars. Most of them get out at some point. You know what happens next.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Concerts for Indigent Defense to put spotlight on Louisiana's public defense crisis

Posted By on Wed, Mar 8, 2017 at 7:16 PM

New Orleans' Chief District Defender Derwyn Bunton. - CHERYL GERBER
  • CHERYL GERBER
  • New Orleans' Chief District Defender Derwyn Bunton.
March 18 is the 54th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, a landmark ruling guaranteeing the right to counsel for defendants who can't afford an attorney. But public defense for the indigent in Louisiana — which relies on fines and fees to fund its public defenders — has been at the center of a "constitutional crisis" in which caseloads overwhelm under-funded and under-staffed offices, halting many cases altogether while the state struggles with a perpetual budget mess. A recent lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center takes aim at the state's public defense services.

"Without adequate representation, there is no justice," New Orleans Chief Defender Derwyn Bunton said in a statement. "Our entire system fails and poor people are the ones hurt the most.”

New Orleans, appropriately, will host the first event in a planned series of national concerts to raise awareness of the right to counsel and the crises faced by public defenders offices nationwide. The New Orleans installment of Concerts for Indigent Defense features the Original Pinettes Brass Band, Zena Moses and Rue Fiya, Junko Beat (also featuring Orleans Public Defender Will Snowden), Caren Green, Mystic Beez, Casme, Britney Chaunte, Dedrick West, K.Levy, Justin Parker and others. In conjunction with the anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the concert begins 5 p.m. Saturday, March 18 at WonderLand Production Studios (3233 St. Bernard Ave.). The concert also will be streamed on its website.

"The Supreme Court says you have a fundamental constitutional right to have a lawyer, and yet state after state, if you're poor and accused of a crime, you often don't have access to a decent lawyer at all," says event founder Stephen Saloom. "If you do, it’s not in a timely fashion. When they represent you they are often overwhelmed by a caseload that nobody thinks is appropriate."

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Town hall on transgender violence follows recent murders in Louisiana

Posted By on Fri, Mar 3, 2017 at 6:00 PM

A memorial during 2016's Transgender Day of Remembrance and Resilience in Armstrong Park.
  • A memorial during 2016's Transgender Day of Remembrance and Resilience in Armstrong Park.

Following the deaths of Ciara McElveen and Chyna Gibson in New Orleans and Jaquarrius Holland in Monroe, advocacy group Transitions Louisiana will host a town hall on transgender violence next week. The meeting is 3 p.m.-5 p.m. Friday, March 10 at First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans (2903 Jefferson Ave.). NOPD's LGBT liaison Sgt.​ Frank Robertson and At-Large City Councilmember Jason Williams also will be present. The violence in 2017 follows two of the deadliest years for transgender people in the U.S., including several deaths in Louisiana.

"This is a crucial moment in New Orleans and ​in ​the country itself," Transitions Louisiana Executive Director J. Mercedes Cardona told Gambit.

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

28 people injured as truck crashes into Endymion crowd

Posted By on Sat, Feb 25, 2017 at 10:15 PM

Dozens of law enforcement officers remained on the scene of a crash at Orleans and Carrollton avenues during the Endymion parade.
  • Dozens of law enforcement officers remained on the scene of a crash at Orleans and Carrollton avenues during the Endymion parade.

As cleanup crews took on a sea of parade debris and plastic bags, dozens of law enforcement remained at the intersection of Carrollton and Orleans avenues, where at least 28 people were injured when a pickup truck veered into the crowd watching the Krewe of Endymion's parade around 7 p.m. Feb. 25.

At 9 p.m., tow trucks removed the truck and a white sedan from the intersection, covered in broken glass and parade trash. New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) officials suspect the driver was intoxicated when the truck hit two cars then turned into the neutral ground and hit people in the crowd and a dump truck. NOPD arrested a suspect shortly after the crash.

Twenty-one people were sent to area hospitals; five people are critically injured.

The FBI also is aware of the "mass casualty incident," according to a statement from the FBI's New Orleans Division spokesperson Craig Betbeze. "We are currently working with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to determine whether a federal violation has occurred."

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

New Orleans JCC bomb threat follows wave of anti-Semitism in U.S.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2017 at 6:00 PM

click image The Jewish Community Center on St. Charles Avenue in 2011. - INFROGMATION
  • INFROGMATION
  • The Jewish Community Center on St. Charles Avenue in 2011.

Young children, seniors and staff were ordered to leave the Jewish Community Center (JCC) on St. Charles Avenue following a bomb threat called into the center this morning. The threat is among more than 60 similar threats at Jewish centers across the U.S. in 2017.

"The reported bomb threat at JCC deemed non-credible, is clear. FBI is investigating," Mayor Mitch Landrieu wrote on Twitter. "Be clear, anti-Semitism will not be tolerated in NOLA."

While the bombs themselves are "hoaxes," the threats and waves of anti-Semitism across the U.S., as the Jewish Community Center Association of North America has said, are very real. In a letter to Department of Homeland Security Director John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey, Florida U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy and New York U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley — along with dozens of members of Congress and Jewish-led groups — demanded swift federal action.

"Federal law enforcement agencies must do everything within their power to punish those responsible for the threats that have already taken place, to prevent future threats from occurring, and to ensure these threats are never converted into action," Murphy said. "These phone calls have a severe economic, as well as emotional, impact."

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Editorial: Troy Brown must go

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 9:48 AM

State Sen. Troy Brown and his attorney, Jill Craft, appeared before the Louisiana Senate’s Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion Feb. 15. - MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • State Sen. Troy Brown and his attorney, Jill Craft, appeared before the Louisiana Senate’s Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion Feb. 15.

Despite two arrests on domestic abuse charges in the last 15 months — and two convictions on misdemeanor charges related to those arrests — state Sen. Troy Brown won’t step down. Sadly, Brown’s refusal to resign his Senate post has left many in the Louisiana Democratic party crawfishing on his fate: condemning him but not demanding his ouster. This should be an easy call.

Brown, D-Napoleonville, was arrested twice on charges of abusing two different women — one his wife, the other his “side friend.” In both cases, Brown pleaded no contest, effectively conceding the charges against him. His excuses and apologies have ranged from claiming a brain injury that prevented him from remembering the first incident to citing the Bible and claiming God’s forgiveness.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Louisiana Senate to consider Troy Brown's expulsion or suspension on Monday

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2017 at 4:16 PM

State Sen. Troy Brown and his attorney, Jill Craft, appeared before the Louisiana Senate’s Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion this morning.
  • State Sen. Troy Brown and his attorney, Jill Craft, appeared before the Louisiana Senate’s Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion this morning.

The Louisiana Senate’s Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion denied several requests from Baton Rouge attorney Jill Craft, who is representing Sen. Troy Brown, D-Napoleonville, as it deliberates, via differing resolutions, Brown’s expulsion for a pair of domestic violence misdemeanors.

The committee will hear the expulsion resolution by Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, and the six-week suspension resolution by Sen. Yvonne Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, during the hearing Monday before the Senate membership, which comprises the select committee in this matter.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Juvenile justice reform discussed at screening of They Call Us Monsters

Posted By on Tue, Feb 7, 2017 at 3:40 PM

A scene from They Call Us Monsters.
  • A scene from They Call Us Monsters.

When she was 16, Misty Jenkins made some mistakes. The worst, she said, was getting involved with a boyfriend who ultimately ended up robbing and killing a cab driver.

Jenkins was there when the crime happened, and was found guilty of second-degree murder. Under law at the time, she was sentenced to life in jail, without the possibility of parole.

“I kind of shut down after that, for quite a few years,” Jenkins told a packed audience at a community forum Feb. 6. “I didn’t feel like there was any hope for me left.”

Jenkins and others who had previously been sentenced to life without parole as children told their stories at a forum presented by The Louisiana Youth Justice Coalition, a network of organizations whose staffing is provided in part by the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights (LCCR).

The anecdotes were told at the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center following a screening of the film They Call Us Monsters, a documentary that follows three boys facing extreme prison sentences.

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Landrieu calls for expanded surveillance, strict bar rules under citywide crime plan

Posted By on Mon, Jan 23, 2017 at 6:00 PM

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A sweeping surveillance plan calls for 200 cameras throughout several New Orleans neighborhoods, while New Orleans bars will have to close their doors (but not close for the night) at 3 a.m. as a network of law enforcement tightens pedestrian traffic. The rules are part of a citywide plan from Mayor Mitch Landrieu with the cooperation of the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), Gov. John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana State Police (LSP), the FBI and members of the New Orleans City Council.

The $40 million plan adds surveillance cameras to 20 "hotspots" through the city to be monitored by NOPD, as well as license plate readers at more than 100 intersections, "remote sensing technology" to detect weapons, and bomb-sniffing K-9 units. Bourbon Street will be pedestrian-only for major events and will go permanently pedestrian-only when the city finalizes a traffic plan, likely within four to six months. Bourbon Street will also have more lighting.

"When you go on Bourbon Street, everything you do will be seen," Landrieu said at a press conference Jan. 23.  "Do I need to let that sink in?"

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"Things have got to get better": a memorial to New Orleans murder victims since 2007

Posted By on Wed, Jan 11, 2017 at 1:40 PM

Nakita Shavers, whose brother Dinerral Shavers was murdered in 2006, reads the names of murder victims at the Silence Is Violence 10-year anniversary outside City Hall Jan. 11.
  • Nakita Shavers, whose brother Dinerral Shavers was murdered in 2006, reads the names of murder victims at the Silence Is Violence 10-year anniversary outside City Hall Jan. 11.

On Jan. 11, 2007, hundreds of New Orleanians rallied outside City Hall following a violent 2006. That year, 162 people were killed, including band director and musician Dinerral Shavers, marking New Orleans with the highest per capita murder rate in the U.S. Shavers' death — and the Jan. 4, 2007 death of filmmaker and artist Helen Hill in her own home — sparked the group Silence Is Violence to campaign for peace and demand citywide protection from gun violence, especially in its most vulnerable neighborhoods.

Ten years later, following a violent 2016 in which 174 people were killed, a small crowd had gathered on the wet steps of City Hall to memorialize victims of violence from the last decade — not with a march, but with a solemn reading of the names of more than 2,000 people who have been killed in New Orleans since 2007. Family and friends of the victims — along with District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro and Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman — read the names of all of them, starting with Corey Hayes, 28, who was killed on New Year's Day 2007. Towering nearby was a sculpture by artist Mitchell Gaudet, an annual piece reflecting the previous year's murders with large pieces of broken glass representing each victim, and two revolvers mounted toward each other at its center.

"It's surreal to be here 10 years later," said Nakita Shavers, whose brother Dinerral was killed Dec. 28, 2006.

Deborah Reeder, whose son Chester Reeder III was killed near a Super Sunday parade in 2009, read the list of victims from that year. "It's difficult for me to read — my son is on this list, so bear with me," she said. "For all the names that will be read, I am sorry for our loss."

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