Jan 21, 2014|
Angela talks to New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro about whether less trials but more convictions is a fair trade.
We're discussing the hot topics of the day with co-host of First Take, Todd Menesses.
Angela discusses the shooting in Lafayette and says farewell to WWL as she hands her timeslot off to Scoot.
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Angela talks with WWL-TV investigative reporter Katie Moore and Tulane law professor Tania Tetlow about the city's backlog of uninvestigated rape cases.
Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)
Well as recent a little earlier three years ago New Orleans district attorney Leon -- zero challenged the judges of criminal district court. To each tried one case a week. With a dozen judges that would mean roughly 600 trials a year. Well as we said the judges reached the 600 mark it just took them three years to get there. It has been a changing time criminal district court with fewer trials but a growing number of convictions. And here to talked about this is -- district attorney Leon cancer and for ever grateful. And your schedules extremely busy well thank you very much hands and I appreciate the opportunity spend time with you this afternoon. Well before we get into what has been happening in criminal district court something else happened from district court. Your office spokesman Chris Bowman was held in contempt of court. Like judge morrow hello cited for violating the gag order it was supposed to spend 24 hours in jail but share -- Grossman released him. Not saying he was doing community service in your office. And now the appeals court has reversed rooms -- When I read that I said what what is going on. Well essentially. Yeah you you've pretty much summarized it does there the judge held him in contempt of court he was ordered to the parish jail. Share of cause men released him. Pending the service is performing community service. Shortly after in fact almost simultaneous with the release by sheriff -- in the court of appeal didn't reverse. The direct contempt ruling made by the judge. The matter is scheduled. -- for a hearings this Thursday. Chris Bowman was served. With a rule. To show cause as to why he should not be held in contempt so we will proceed with this process again Thursday in front of judge. -- -- I'm really prohibited. As much as I know you'd like to ask me questions about the specific facts of this sign him prohibited because it is an open cases has been the policy of our office. Not to speak about open cases -- -- I'm again we're going to we're gonna respect that I respect that policy. And there are reasons why we do that but I would just like to say that I am I am very supportive of Chris Bowman. He has been an outstanding employee he has worked very very hard. For the office and for the people of the city of New Orleans and my cassette that that that's about that's about all I can comment on and -- except I say you know -- Certainly. Mr. Bowman is his contested he will be there Thursday. And I am very supportive of him. And certainly understand that you have limitations on what you can say but it would be concerning Chris moment and the actual. Gag order issue. Not so much -- -- usual for the sheriff elect someone. Well the sheriff is the custodian in other words every inmate in the Orleans parish prison is essentially under the control of the Orleans Harry Shearer. And the sheriff much like as if someone were sent to the department of corrections they determine the sheriff has a right to determine. One news release that she has a right to determine whether someone is going to be confined. Or whether or not that person is going to be allowed to perform community service and the sheriff has the right to set what we call the good time. In other words if someone. Behavior while he is seen in custody is certain time cut from his cents a -- determines all those things. For individuals who or sentenced to the parish prison. This case did involve someone being sentenced to the parish prison so what is within the sole discretion of the sheriff to determine. When that person is released in the circumstances under which he is released. While he is in his custody. Should. -- gears a little bit back to criminal district court and and your tenure there and your real challenge to the judges to shorten -- the number of trials that are going on. And and I know at the time it was controversial -- name. May or may not have been offended by it but that the message was we gotta get this thing going and it really hasn't but your. Conviction rate is out and I I guess for the general public was not involved -- this that is a very interesting thing fewer trials but greater convictions. I think you know what has got to people have got to understand is the district attorney does not determine. Whether someone goes to trial or not. And secondly the district attorney doesn't determine whether it's going to be a judge or jury trial. The defendant if he wishes to maintain his position -- his plea of not guilty. And the district attorney opts not to dismiss the case. And the defendant has the right to say I want to go to trial. And the defendant has the right to determine whether it's going to be a -- Anchorage jury trial. Essentially when we took office I believe. You know there there was sort of a mindset there was. And an attitude so to speak with regard to criminal district court that the district attorney's office was not aggressive enough they weren't forceful. I think we wanted to demonstrate immediately when we took office that. That was not going to be our position that if someone wanted to push us we were going to go to trial with the cases. We were not going to back down I think it was too important to this community especially. We some of the setbacks we have with regard to criminal justice. That people had to understand we were going to go there we were going to work especially against the violent offender we're going to push very very heart. We've been successful with regard to that you know what we're seeing now we -- with a number of jury trials have decreased no question about that. But what we're also seeing is the number of convictions is going up the defendants are taking. The the offers that we are making twos down a lot more today than they were several years ago because essentially they wanted to test us they wanted to see if we. If you know if we if there was something behind what we were saying that we -- we will point there was going to be a new day in criminal court. I think we've effectively done that I think certainly we're seeing. That with regard to the jury trials we are taking more violent offenders to. To court for trials rather than the narcotics cases which was. Has always been traditionally the largest number of cases that work that we tried by the -- in the criminal court. Stay with us we're gonna continue our conversation with district attorney Leon -- -- I'm Angela on WW well. Our guest today district attorney Leon -- zero we're talking about sort of a status report on criminal district court which for as many know. For years was in such disarray and there has clearly been some improvements on many levels. And and yet we still hear about. Or the efficiencies everything they could be are -- taking care of the number of trials we need to be taking care. Not your Bailiwick perhaps more than judges. But we always hear about these continuance is that just keep going on and on and on and what you think can be done to. To reel those -- Well certainly from our perspective. The longer the case is delayed the more difficult it is for us our cases do not get better with time. But we learned that the the more the more time you put between mini van and the time it goes to trial witnesses tend to. Disappear. Their memories fade and in some cases the people on the bad guys the violent offenders. Are you get to them they're able to his first intimidate them or threatened them to not come to court. You know one of the things certainly we're not where we want to be with regard to getting the cases to trial as quickly as we would like especially some of the violent cases. But Angela when you look at when we first took office there were several cases on the docket several very very serious homicide cases which had been sitting on those judge's docket for five and six and seven years. You know this one horrible case -- I'm always reminded of where one for me and went to court 130. Times incomes in connection with the death of his son the murder of his -- We came into office and we were able to convict the two people responsible for that convict them of second degree murder. That was a great relief to him but unfortunately this individual had an agonized with that. -- live with that paint each and every time he came to court. Certainly from our perspective we try to push especially the violent cases to trial as quickly as we possibly can it. -- in all fairness in some instances it's going to be necessary to continue case sometimes is going with things just happen things come up that are unexpected. Where you may have to continue -- case. But we do our our level best to try not to continue them over and over again it's one of the things I certainly -- I continue to preach to the young assistants about let's try to get the cases to trial they they're aware of the fact that the old -- the case gets. The more of an advantage there is for the other side because of that the delay in an -- jurors are. Quick to understand on -- sometimes people can't remember things and sometimes your memory fades. Are sometimes they they they again they just simply forget when they're on the witness stand and it makes it easier for people on the other side to impeach him so from our perspective it's in our best interest of course these cases and we try to do that as quickly as we can and I think I think it would. I think this these statistics the evidence will Barack. That we are getting the case is quicker today. Then we did when we first took. Almost certainly five to seven years I bring up also because we received a call from a woman who whose trial has been pending for two years. And I thought that was a long time two years I don't know what it is about to I didn't massacre. But it was sort of the frustration but was also she was feeling under pressure to do a plea down to a misdemeanor she has no interest -- that she wants -- day in court. But but two years is along time. Yes it is again that not knowing the specifics of the case in normally speaking. We're not going to plead. Cases especially those cases that involve violent felonies down to -- as we just we just don't we. Okay we re not going to do that many times I do you know the law says the victims have the right to be notified they have the right to be made aware of what's happening with their case we try to do that as best we can't. We have a victim with issue and where we have ten counselors who were signed essentially. To make sure that the witnesses and victims of cases are notified. And not just the homicides as a sex offenses on the arm robberies. But all the cases where victims are involved even someone who might be the victim of theft. A burglary. A property crime we we try to keep them apprised of the situation and we are very interested in their input certainly they're the victim they're the one who has experienced either an economic loss. Or are some very very close relative who who has been hurt as a result of this. The conduct of another so their -- part of your plea agreement absolutely we certainly want I do want to take into account you know I. I've tried to be as accessible as possible people call the office and make -- they wanna come and meet with me and I've I've given that opportune that's the very least I can do my day is filled with. With visits many times of of of the witnesses or victims. Family members and I'm I'm now leaving you with. Even meet with people on the other side people on the other side can sometimes come in and and see if they can get some consideration so it is about trying to resolve the cases but I do have to keep in mind that. That we represent the victim we represent the witness as we represent the entire community and we wanna do what's best for the entire community. Let us talk about. Some of the having just had -- watch on some of the victories. According to him really is the fact that you have moved some of these cases two misdemeanors. I'm sorry -- move to misdemeanors to another court and that has freedom for the more serious and violent. Cases no question about that. One of the things we saw was there were about a thousand. For instance marijuana simple batteries misdemeanor theft case is trespassing cases on the docket of criminal quote we took office. We decided to move those cases to the municipal court let the municipal court judges deal with the misdemeanor cases because they did not involve jury trials. And let the judges in the criminal district court concentrate on the felony cases especially the crimes of violence. We certainly reduced the number of the cases in the court by the by their doing that and they could concentrate on what was the more serious cases. And what we learned was we learned that by doing that. Those misdemeanor cases moving much quicker in the municipal court then they were in the criminal district court. So we were getting rid of -- large number of cases and we were disposing of them a lot quicker than they had been disposed of in the past so it was something that was very successful. And again it's allowed us with regard to the jury trials to concentrate on getting the more filing cases to trial rather than the non violent cases. Another area he specifically mentioned was your work with the racketeering indictments and that has been a great positive. And evidence of the what you're talking about earlier relationships. That are now very strong. With other entities. The racketeering and statute has been on the books in the -- Deanna for over thirty years. And I believe we're the only district attorney's office who has ever used it we've used it at six times in the last three years. We brought in six groups and gangs of individuals and we indicted them a total of seventy plus individuals who have been indicted. I think to a large extent that's a a significant factor as to the the number the decrease in the number of homicides that took place in the world and last year because a large number of people. Who were responsible for a great deal of violence work are in custody and they have stayed in custody. And we are not able to do that if there is not cooperation with the police department. I have a great working relationship with the superintendent we meet on a very frequent basis the members of the new -- police department the members of the the and we also have a a -- a great working relationship with our federal partners the FB ID EA the ATF the US attorney's office. And together. We we meet on a monthly basis also to discuss. The gang activity that is taking place in the city of new -- and we are trying to formulate plans and strategies. Two more effectively go after the gang in the city of new -- and we have been successful in doing that. We've indicted six I say in the last three years the federal government the US attorney's office has indicted for. That's in excess of 400 people that have been taken off the streets for being involved in criminal and mainly violent activity. That's a very very successful. Operation in my opinion you know and again. For the first time you've never we have never really seen this sort of cooperation. Between our federal partners and our local the local law enforcement officials it's it's paying huge dividends in my opinion for the citizens of this community. Stay with this we'll continue with G-8 Leon and Kenneth arrow right after the we are we have loved this half hour with the district attorney Leon cancer I appreciate your time. I'm sorry we're out of time in this is just a permanent invitation to come back and updated as things are going it matters to this community. What's happening in civil and criminal district court thank you very much and I certainly enjoyed it thank you -- and we're happy to come back. I want everyone to stay with this summer -- into the newsroom we're gonna come back government atop a very important parenting issue. Stay with this financial now let's go to Chris Miller in the news.