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DA's Audit — or Autopsy?
Where is the DA's audit? It's been six months since then-Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan Jr. vowed to approve an independent management audit of his much-maligned office. Instead, Jordan announced his resignation three weeks later (Oct. 30), leaving Acting DA Keva Landrum-Johnson to oversee the $25,000 study by the standard-setting National District Attorneys Association (NDAA). The audit began in earnest, but only after Jordan left and the DA's office made a long, dramatic return from the brink of bankruptcy. The NDAA's team of experts was supposed to make its report public earlier this year. However, a change of leadership in the national organization delayed the report. Sources say Landrum-Johnson reviewed a draft last week, which insiders expect will read more like an organizational autopsy than a management audit. The report's grim conclusions are not expected to fault Landrum-Johnson. The interim DA will release a final report to the public "very soon," one source says. — Johnson


Assault Weapon Killings Down
Police Chief Warren Riley recently revived a call for a ban on assault weapons, and he's pushing legislation to that end. Orleans Parish Coroner Dr. Frank Minyard supports the chief's proposed ban. No figures are available, but very few of the city's 42 homicides this year involved AK-47s, Tech-9s or other assault-style weapons. "We see a few, but we're not seeing them like we were after the storm," coroner's Chief Investigator John Gagliano says. Most local homicide victims are killed with .40-caliber or 9-millimeter handguns, which are easier to conceal than most assault-style weapons, Minyard says. Gagliano expressed surprise when recalling a recent murder from a .22-caliber pistol, and Austin Banks, a spokesperson for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, says ATF is seizing a lot of "standard 9-millimeters" from convicted felons in Louisiana. "It's legal to have a (semi-automatic) assault weapon if you are not a convicted felon," Banks notes. Criminals obtain the weapons via auto thefts, residential burglaries and illegal "straw purchases" — using relatives and associates with no felony records to buy weapons from legitimate gun dealers, Banks says. — Johnson


Gun Ban Under Fire
Supporters of law-abiding citizens' right to bear firearms are firing back at Police Chief Warren Riley's support of a ban on assault-style weapons. "I think Riley is trying to find another scapegoat for his inability to do anything about the escalating violent crime," says attorney C.B. Forgotston, who tracked local homicides last year. Forgotston says automatic assault weapons are already illegal and the only difference between semi-automatic weapons and so-called "long guns" is that some "assault-type" weapons have larger magazines. "There is nothing inherently dangerous about an assault-type weapon," the lawyer says. "It is a myth perpetrated by movies." A local ban on the long guns would only eliminate their sale to law-abiding citizens and have no effect on violent crime, Forgotston adds. The United States Supreme Court is considering Second Amendment gun rights for the first time since the 1930s. The High Court is pondering a suit brought by a security guard against Washington, D.C.'s ban on personal handguns in homes — a law that has yet to affect the rate of violent crime in the nation's capitol, says Texas State University criminologist Peter Scharf. Crimestoppers Inc. Executive Director Darlene Cusanza says the nonprofit is teaming up with ATF to unveil a gun hotline aimed at helping citizens report felons with firearms anonymously. — Johnson


Scholarship Ban May Fizzle
A Thibodaux lawmaker has filed legislation that would strip legislators of their long-held right to award scholarships to Tulane University — but that doesn't mean the bill will be debated. The four-year scholarships, presently valued at $33,000 a year, are perennial issues. Rookie Rep. Jerome "Dee" Richard, an independent from Lafourche Parish, placed them on his hit list for the session that begins this week, but feedback from his colleagues has been sharper than he anticipated. "At this point, I'm not 100 percent sure I'm going to go forward with the bill, but I wanted to get it filed to get a conversation going," he says. Tulane legislative scholarships date from the late 19th century, but they didn't become controversial until the mid-1990s, when media reports revealed that lawmakers were doling them out to family members. Since then, some lawmakers have allowed Tulane to pick students from their respective districts, while others have appointed committees to award the scholarships. If passed, Richard's House Bill 272 would not take effect until 2012 so any scholarships promised during the ongoing term can still be delivered. — Alford


Card-Carrying Immigrants
Unauthorized immigrants could work in certain Louisiana industries if they obtain a special biometric card that contains their personal medical information and other data, according to a bill by Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville. ID cards, which can hold everything from fingerprints and photos to a range of digital documentation, are nothing new. Congress has considered the credit card-size IDs, and Britain will require them of U.S. students later this year. Harrison says he conceived the Louisiana program after seeing similar efforts in Pennsylvania and Colorado. He says the Louisiana program could be a roadblock to new and reemerging diseases. "We've already experienced a resurgence of tuberculosis from South America, and it has been a tremendous drain on our resources and medical community," he says. "This proposed system would do a screening for diseases." Harrison, who says he is still gathering support information for his House Bill 1097, adds that the screening process would seek other information so that "employers can feel confident about who they bring on and not have to worry about any fines." While the state has yet to issue a fiscal note estimating the cost of the bill, Harrison says some of the expenses could be passed on to individuals or employers. He says that would be justified because the cards would reveal immigration status, where cardholders may work and how long they can stay in the U.S. His bill would allow unauthorized immigrants to work in the "planting and harvesting of agricultural, forestry or horticultural products; in the production or gathering of livestock, dairy, or poultry products; in the field of animal husbandry; or in the care, feeding, and training of horses." — Alford

34 Years and Counting
April 1 is always more than just April Fool's Day at the Orleans Parish Coroner's office. This Tuesday marks the 34th anniversary of Dr. Frank Minyard's inauguration as the elected coroner of Orleans Parish, but there are no plans for celebration. The New Orleans Forensic Center may be too busy. As of March 27, there were 42 homicides in Orleans — a rate of more than three a week, according to coroner's Chief Investigator John Gagliano. In addition, there have been 12 suicides in as many weeks. Now the longest serving elected official in the city, Minyard first took the oath of office April 1, 1974. A jazz trumpet player, Minyard was sworn in with several other reform officials: new DA Harry Connick, new Criminal Sheriff Charles C. Foti Jr. and new Clerk of Criminal Court Edwin Lombard. Connick is retired. Foti served as the city's jailer for 30 years and one term as elected state attorney general. Lombard is now an elected judge on the state Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal. — Johnson

Images of Leadership
These days, a changing of the political guard often means a redesign of government Web sites, frequently with adjustments to the size of public officials' photos. Gov. Bobby Jindal's ( 3-inch-high picture is bigger than the photo of predecessor Kathleen Blanco. A Republican, Jindal sports a casual look — no tie, but in a jacket — as he addresses the unseen virtual masses. The photo-rich site of Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu ( promotes the state's culture, food and music, but may take too long to download. Newly elected state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's site (, like that of Jindal, opts for a billboard-size picture (it's more than twice the size of predecessor Charles Foti Jr. — and no one ever accused Foti of false modesty). State Treasurer John Kennedy's ( virtual portrait is only 2 inches high, even though the new Republican is vying to unseat U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. Republican Secretary of State Jay Dardenne's Web site photo is unobtrusive (, but his biography contains the gentle reminder that he crushed his opponents with 64 percent of the vote in the fall primary election. State Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon's photo seems understated considering the magnitude of the insurance crisis ( Finally, the state Department of Agriculture & Forestry ( focuses more attention on a link to "Fun Farm Facts for Kids" than the modest photo of newly elected Commissioner Mike Strain. Strain vows to launch a "new and improved Web site in the near future." — Johnson

Sport Fishers Elect New Prez
The state's largest recreational fishing lobby has elected Bob Bush of Lake Charles as its new chairman. The Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana has several thousand members statewide and is a local affiliate of a national group that lobbies Congress and the White House. Bush, an insurance executive, succeeds longtime chairman Jack Lawton. Bush's election as chairman represents a clean slate for CCA's top leadership. After 15 years as executive director, Jeff Angers stepped down last year. He was succeeded by David Cresson of Baton Rouge, who previously served as the CEO of the Our Lady of the Lake Foundation. Bush says his overriding goal will remain to advance CCA's agenda for responsible stewardship of Louisiana's marine resources. Specific issues of concern include coastal erosion, preserving fisheries and helping the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries secure proper funding. Bush also wants CCA to maintain its large stable of volunteers and to continue raising money for new reef and fishing structures. CCA's clout reflects its own grassroots structure; over the past decade, membership in local chapters has tripled while statewide rolls have increased more than sevenfold. Founded in 1983, CCA led the fight to ban gill nets in state waters, to limit commercial speckled trout fishing to a rod and reel, and to designate redfish as a gamefish. All of those issues put the group at odds with commercial fishing interests. — Alford


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