New Orleans District Attorney

Friday, June 9, 2017

Da Winnas & Da Loozas of the 2017 Louisiana legislative session: Part 1

Posted By on Fri, Jun 9, 2017 at 1:25 PM

The Louisiana legislature in the final hours of the regular session. - CAITIE BURKES/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • CAITIE BURKES/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • The Louisiana legislature in the final hours of the regular session.

The partisan divide in the Louisiana Legislature is more palpable than ever, especially in the House of Representatives. Whether you call it Washington-style politics or something else, there’s no denying that the days of lawmakers putting their differences aside and getting along on a personal level are fading fast.

That makes legislating look like something even bloodier than making sausage.

When the House adjourned amid a ham-fistedly orchestrated meltdown — which was designed to prevent a vote on the state operating budget — it was obvious that most of the carnage (and most of the bloodletting) came at the hands of the House GOP leadership. That made Gov. John Bel Edwards look like a “winna” even though the governor suffered his share of defeats on other fronts.

Speaking of other fronts, one of the bright spots of the session was the bipartisan effort to enact meaningful criminal justice reform — a heroic feat that proved lawmakers are indeed capable of working together when they put their minds to it (and put partisan political agendas aside).

All of which brings us to our annual review of the slaughters and triumphs — Da Winnas and Da Loozas — which we’ve done for more than 30 years now. Let’s start with …

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Friday, May 26, 2017

New Orleans sexual assault survivors speak out against DA; Cannizzaro's office responds

Posted By on Fri, May 26, 2017 at 10:15 PM

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Steps away from the Orleans Parish District Attorney's office May 26, rape survivors and advocates called out what they said was chronic negligence and apathy towards sexual assault cases within the New Orleans criminal justice system. A new group, Judicial Reforms For Sex Crimes (JSRC), urges police and prosecutors to end discrimination against survivors of sexual assault, and encourages other survivors to share their stories. Several survivors shared their stories and invited others to do the same.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Lawmakers to introduce bills to abolish death penalty in the state

Posted By on Mon, Apr 24, 2017 at 1:54 PM

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A proposal to abolish the death penalty in Louisiana could help prevent a crisis the state’s public defenders say they are hurtling toward, unless drastic changes are made in how the state handles defense for the indigent.

But because the bill does not apply to those already convicted or indicted of capital offenses, the savings in money earmarked for such cases will come slowly. And the state’s district attorneys are taking a hardline stance against the idea, arguing to local lawmakers the move would take away a vital tool in obtaining plea bargains — hanging the possibility of the death penalty over defendants’ heads.

Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, state Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, and state Rep. Steve Pylant, R-Winnsboro, are authoring or co-authoring legislation that would end the death penalty. Claitor’s bill will get its first hearing on Tuesday.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

NOPD deputy chief to become DA's chief investigator

Posted By on Mon, Jun 23, 2014 at 3:45 PM

NOPD deputy chief Kirk Bouyelas, left, will serve as the DA's chief investigator.
  • ALEX WOODWARD
  • NOPD deputy chief Kirk Bouyelas, left, will serve as the DA's chief investigator.

Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro has named outgoing New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) deputy superintendent Kirk Bouyelas as the DA's chief investigator. Cannizzaro made the announcement at the DA's office this afternoon. Reading from a prepared statement, Cannizzaro said he considered several hires but "one name clearly rose to the top."

Tenisha Stevens, an investigator with the DA's office, was promoted to deputy chief investigator.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

State of the Criminal Justice System: Cannizzaro pushes Mayor for budget increase

Posted By on Wed, Jun 13, 2012 at 11:31 AM

District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro delivered his annual State of the Criminal Justice System speech Tuesday night. I'll post a link to the full speech below the jump, but I'd like to point out one section near the end.

Mr. Mayor — council members, I must request that you significantly increase the local funding of the District Attorney's office. Long before any of you arrived at City Hall, the DA's office became the red headed stepchild of criminal justice funding. Last year — during the budget process, we presented you with an analysis that revealed that the Orleans Parish District Attorney's office was one of the worst locally funded DA's offices in the state of Louisiana.

For more about that analysis, read our article from November, "Cannizzaro: Orleans Parish DA may be most underfunded in state."

One recent topic of interest that Cannizzaro did not address on Tuesday was the Brady rule — and how alleged violations of it under former DA Harry Connick's watch still plague the office today. The problem is explained more fully in this Gambit interview with Cannizzaro from December:

(More after the jump)

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

House committee approves second amendment bill

Posted By on Wed, May 2, 2012 at 4:20 PM

Louisiana has dozens of gun laws on the books. State Sen. Neil Riser filed Senate Bill 303, a constitutional amendment that aims to expand and protect the second amendment right to bear firearms. His bill would "require that any denial, infringement, or restriction on one's right to acquire, keep, possess, transport, carry, transfer, and use arms for defense of life and property be subject to a strict scrutiny standard by courts in determining any violation of the right."

This afternoon, Louisiana’s House committee on criminal justice voted 9-5 in favor of the bill. The bill, according to Riser, “will give Louisiana the strongest second amendment right in the nation.” The bill's opponents fear Riser’s bill would open a door for litigation to rule those 80-plus laws unconstitutional, creating a gun-toting free for all. It now enter the House for a vote and will likely end up on November ballots where its fate will ultimately be decided by voters.

State Reps. Roy Burrell, Dalton Honore, Barbara Norton, Terry Landry and Helena Moreno repeatedly asked why Louisiana needs the additional “protection.” “I’m just trying to figure out how this gun bill is going to make Louisiana better and make citizens safer,” Landry asked, adding he doesn’t want to send the state back to “the wild wild west of this country.”

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

More from our interview with DA Leon Cannizzaro

Posted By on Tue, Dec 6, 2011 at 4:01 PM

This week's cover story — a Q&A with District Attorney Leon Cannizzarofocused mostly on his office and "Brady laws," which require prosecutors to turn over any exculpatory evidence to defense attorneys. But we had a couple of interesting digressions along the way, including one about a recent high-profile prosecution, witness safety and contraband controls at Orleans Parish Prison. It's presented here in slightly redacted form.

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GAMBIT: You've said your office can't protect every family member of everybody that testifies.

DISTRICT ATTORNEY LEON CANNIZZARO: Correct.

G: But when the public sees how easily their family members can be done in in something like the Curtis Matthews case, what can you tell the public to make them want to testify?

CANNIZZARO: Well, I think that the public is the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system serves the public, but the public makes up the criminal justice system. If we don't have the participation of witnesses, if we don't have their involvement, then there is no criminal justice system. Again, I basically urge them to give this system a chance, to give this process a chance. You know, John Matthews was shot, I think it was seven or eight times in his own home prior to his testifying against Telly Hankton. And as a result of that shooting, he came forth and testified not once, but twice. He had a greater resolve, in my opinion, to show Telly Hankton and people of his ilk that you are not going to influence me, you are not going to intimidate me and run me away from doing what is the right thing. To me, he was a hero in that case. …

G: I don't think anyone is arguing the heroism of someone like a John Matthews. But in 2010 you urged Hankton be moved out of OPP [Orleans Parish Prison].

CANNIZZARO: Yes.

G: And obviously your thinking was that it was just too easy for him to control what was going on in the streets in Orleans from OPP?

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cannizzaro: Orleans Parish DA may be most underfunded in state

Posted By on Tue, Nov 15, 2011 at 4:07 PM

Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro gave one of this season's more riveting City Council presentations today (which, I'll admit, I did not attend in person. I watched it from my comfortable cubicle.), saying that in light of new health insurance costs and the loss of $800,000 in grant funding, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's recommendation to keep the office's allocation static at $6.16 million is tantamount to a $1.2 cut.

Cannizzaro highlighted the progress the office has made in the past few years. From 2008 to 2010, he said, showing statistics gathered by the Metropolitan Crime Commission, New Orleans has seen a 31 percent increase in felony cases accepted for prosecution, a 65 percent increase in felony convictions and a 211 percent increase in violent felony convictions. The mayor's budget — which according to the mayor was designed to protect public safety spending — could force the DA to replace seasoned attorneys with novices right out of law school, jeopardizing that progress.

He went on to say that, measured by several metrics, the Orleans Parish DA is already "one of — if not the most — underfunded district attorney's offices in the state of Louisiana."

(More after the jump)

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Landrieu's 100th day as mayor

Posted By on Wed, Aug 11, 2010 at 7:37 PM

On Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s 100th day in office, he held a town hall for City Council District A at Grace Episcopal Church in Mid-City. Landrieu, who is in the midst of conducting these “listening sessions” in every district, was joined on the dais by District A councilperson Susan Guidry and deputy mayors Judy Reese Morse and Andy Kopplin. In the audience were NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, Council President Arnie Fielkow and dozens of city managers from almost every municipal department, all of whom took notes as members of the crowd stood and spoke about the improvements needed in their neighborhoods.

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District A City Councilmember Susan Guidry and Mayor Mitch Landrieu take notes as members of the crowd speak at last night's town hall in Mid-City.

“I think it’s fair to say we’ve put the pedal to the medal,” Landrieu said, outlining the six “priorities” of his administration, which he said were developed in the many task force meetings held by the new administration. The six, in order of importance, were: public safety; children and families; economic development; sustainable communities; open and effective government; and innovation. He warned that the city’s $67 million deficit would require some “tough decisions and bad choices,” and added that the findings from these community meetings would steer the direction of the final municipal budget.

Audience members had filled out cards with questions and comments as they entered, and moderator Vincent Sylvain handed them to Landrieu one by one. Each person had two minutes to pose a question, during which Landrieu — in loosened tie and rolled-up shirtsleeves — took copious notes on the most tangential of complaints on pages of yellow legal paper.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Mayor, Police Chief Reorganize NOPD Structure, Aim To Save $15 Million

Posted By on Fri, Jun 25, 2010 at 10:19 PM

Mayor Mitch Landrieu was joined by Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas at city hall this afternoon to announce a major restructuring of the city's police department aimed at saving $15 million.

Police Reshuffle

Mayor Landrieu (center) with Police Superintendent Serpas (left) and new Deputy Superintendent Arlinda Pierce Westbrook of the Public Integrity Bureau (right).

"We're going to take the fight to the streets where it belongs," said Mayor Landrieu. "And not in police headquarters where it seems to be at this moment."

Chief Serpas said the plan is designed to cut down on "bloated senior executive leadership" in the department. He said the reshuffle would create "clear lines of accountability, clear lines of responsibility, clear lines of authority," and that "we're going to be giving people jobs they deserve."

"When I got here I was surprised to find out that deputy chiefs were only supervising in some cases four or five people," he said. "For example we're not going to have one captain in charge of one person in the radio shop any more. I mean, that's gonna end on Sunday."

Serpas will cut the number of deputy superintendents fom six to four, and Marlon Defillo and Kurt Boyelas will maintain their ranks in charge of the department's Field Operations Bureau and Investigations and Support Bureau respectively. Two civilian deputy superintendents will also be brought on board: Arlinda Pierce Westbrook will move from the city attorney's office to oversee the Public Integrity Bureau, and Stephanie Landry will run the department's Management Services Bureau.

The cuts will eliminate the positions of 11 majors — seven will become police commanders in their respective districts, and four will revert to police captain. 67 percent of captains in the department will be given new assignments this afternoon.

Serpas said each of the four deputy chiefs have promised not to moonlight in any other roles in exchange for their jobs, and said he is working hard to institute an honesty policy in the bureau, mentioned in this week's Gambit cover interview — whereby dishonest officers can be fired.

"We're going to fight crime to make New Orleans safe, and we're going to be responsible budget managers," said Serpas. "The two things go hand in hand."

City council members praised the move, and District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said he appreciated Serpas' focus on reducing violent crime. The two have been spending so much time together collaborating, he added, "that our wives are going to start getting suspicious."

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