WWL>Topics>>8-21-14 12pm, Garland, Leon Cannizzaro

8-21-14 12pm, Garland, Leon Cannizzaro

Aug 21, 2014|

The New Orleans D.A. is creating a new unit to ensure fair convictions in the city. Sounds like good news, but does it beg the question as to what our legal system was ensuring before this?

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

Reports. New Orleans attorney Leo in terms -- we're creating and you could do to ensure fair convictions in this city. And little red -- on how to talk to him and we hoping. You would call it like him up he's come in to the studio where this Leo welcome to the shore -- -- off thank you very much call and I appreciate this opportunity is that sentence right is that in view and unit two or a new way of ensuring terror convictions and if so explain which -- Well from our perspective from this district attorney's office yet and it is something that is very new it's very it's revolutionary so to speak it is a reform. Not something we have been talking about for awhile something we have been working with. A group called the innocence project -- I know when many people think that we are working with the the innocence project and the district attorney's office people says that's really not doesn't sound like a very holy alliance you guys are usually. Are at opposite ends of the court roaming your advocating for a different interest in in your respective professions. But we we have come together with -- is basically it's about eight and integrity unit to ensure the integrity. Of the convictions that have been obtained in the criminal district court in Orleans parish. You know while while we have said that you know it is our. Our belief that the overwhelming majority of people who are convicted of serious felony offenses in New Orleans. Or in fact guilty of those crimes for which they are. Imprisoned. And the conviction was the product of what we believe was a constitutionally. Legitimate process. Our office and -- we believe that there are a small number of inmates. Who are either actually innocent of the crimes for which they are serving time. Or that the legal process that resulted in their conviction. Contained such serious and a fundamental. Flaws. That it can that be considered constitutionally. Legitimate. So to that end. We believe that by coming together with the innocence project. We believe that. This is something. In in in an effort to sort of insure the integrity of these convictions. We believe that this will Foster that this will contribute to public safety. Because we have to keep in mind that because although there may be a small number of cases. If those cases go uncorrected. If a bad result is allowed to staying and then it is very difficult. For us to get the community to trust the system. The mistrust of the system in my opinion does have a negative affect. All on public safety because if people don't trust the system than they are not willing to get involved they are not willing to com forward. And report what they see they're not willing to go into the court and testify. Against individuals who commit crimes especially crimes of violence. So it has certainly been a a policy of our office to review. All cases we do have in our appeals division we do review. Post conviction. Applications that are presented to lost. And we do review even claims when there are claims of misconduct. And that is certainly -- responsibility. Of followers to do that. And though we are certainly going to be committed. To seeking justice not only on the cases that are brought to us that are open investigations. But on close cases and close cases that. We have been responsible for prosecuting. And even cases. That have been close sort of that predates our administration into office. The the the purpose of the group that we're work. -- with the the innocence project. The innocence project got new -- -- the -- who re teaming with its going to be the innocence project of New Orleans and the district attorney's office. A purpose of the -- is certainly to free innocent prisoners. And to find those whose convictions. Or the product of such an unfair. And cursor reprocess. That we can't have no confidence in that particular conviction. Job. And then again that. That that if if that for -- person committed any other crime any crimes so. It it is something. To try to again review not only the cases in the recent past victory view cases that have. Taken place years ago even decades ago. You know we had a case recently and I think we had an opportunity to talk with you about it on the show. Case involving original -- involved in 1979. Murder case. Where because of the job. Because of the work a quick work. That the innocent project did and brought to us a very thorough investigation. We were able to join with them. In a motion to grant this individual a new trial and then we subsequently dismissed that case against -- and Adams. So. The purpose the purpose of this project as I said is simply too. Make sure that if someone is innocent. That that individual is exonerated. And we're going to re investigate. Some of the old cases. And we will also this will hopefully bring in to line 88 Cole case will be able to review some of the cold cases which are simply out there. If if we're able to re investigate some of the old in cold cases we may well be able. Can be able to bring those cases bring indictments against those cases and bring a prosecution against the individual who's responsible. Four homicide that has been. That just basically going unsolved for years. And we're also I believe what's going to be and important about this is we're going to expose. Many of the claims. Which may in fact be meritless. So the the threefold purpose is to exonerate. Get those people out of jail that do not belong in jail. It gives us an opportunity. To review some of the older cases what we call Cole case homicides. And the third thing is that it allows the convictions of some of the cases. That where they have been attacked the convictions have been attacked to demonstrate that those. Can that the challenges of the charges to those convictions are in fact Merrill's. I think we're. Council leader -- treatment pride do. Let's take -- right well conga and give more details but yeah. Are welcome back we're talking. To -- -- until there. Screening and ordered to ensure her convictions in the city. And what's organization innocent project innocence project of New Orleans and the DA's office and great work. -- country funding people in prison for short comparable time for not community crime. So -- -- Good group. Talk and all year. And raised the issue -- And all of the Pittsburgh complicated. Thing he would do exactly that from where. How do you say hate to -- young black man. In this city -- around this country. -- We don't -- -- good guys in front shipping system. Armstrong and change you give brings and a Ruger partner. Somebody else walks and does not -- percent. Loss. Of the people in this country charts never go to trial this is not a country. Of trials and more. It's he would use. The plea bar and plea bargain. Everything Barbara a lot of top and as back either by that threat. You're gonna get heavier sentence if you don't read what I want to read through. Or if that's not a big thing the system won't -- -- you financially and lecturer very -- -- You talk. Well you know you mentioned a number of a very interesting topics there and you -- it's a question I wrestled with quite a bit. When I first became a judge. In the in the district court. I never wanted to punish our penalize anyone. For exercising what we would say would be his constitutional right in going to trial. I'd like to think I never did that and and and many cases you can look that. My policies in my procedures were pretty much the same with you pled guilty or jury found you guilty. Think the proof in the putting in this is just meet personally and and and get to one point but just me personally. In that's why I tried probably more jury trials and any judge ever in the history of the state of Louisiana. Because I did never wanted anyone to walk out of that court and say. All of this guy railroaded me. This guy made -- plead guilty even though I wasn't guilty I hear many young men stand up in front of me say I judge I didn't do assistant let's go to trial. I said if you're responsible for this and I think you're entitled to probation and wanna give it to -- If you're responsible for this and I think you should go to jail and that's what I'm going to do also. So if you are guilty. And you won a plea guilty that's fine if you or not and you want to go to trial then you have the right to do that and I'm not gonna penalize you or punish you for that. I think that's certainly that's important you you have to keep in mind that this criminal justice system. Is it's it's a system that is driven by individuals it's of people system. People are going to make mistakes people or not perfect. And you know you're going to have in our criminal justice system you gonna have some people who do a better job than others at. That at the functions that where we're at where they are so to speak and in this process. Same thing as a district attorney. We do the same thing I recognize I realized. That look you wanna find people who common to the criminal justice system. Essentially Garland because one they have no education. No job or no job skill. And in many instances they have a substance abuse problem. Also wanna find that people who comment to the criminal justice system as first offenders. Do not comment with their first crime as a serious crime of violence you are not going to -- that's just the way it is. You're going to see that most people that come into the system. Comment with nonviolent or what we would for referred to as petty offenses. Possession of narcotics. A theft case or some such of some such offense. I think that is the chance that we have and this is an advantage I have is being DA that I did not and -- a judge. As the judge I took the case that was brought to me and I dealt with it. As a district attorney with some of the young nonviolent first offenders and even second offenders. We give them an opportunity we have what we call a diversion program. A program I'm very proud of by the way where we will tell them work with them work with thoughts I'm not going to prosecute you. But again there has to be an admission on their port that they are responsible for either that possession of narcotics of that depth charge or whatever brings them into the system. We don't use that against them in the event they decide they don't wanna go into the the program has dealt with over 6000 people since we have been in office -- That in that program has a very very small recidivism rate extremely Smart recidivism rate less than 5%. So again which -- which you you you recognize that people are going to come into the system. You wanna make sure that the system works for everyone and you wanna make she. Would -- we know it well. We'll look -- those that don't work for the black community. You've been in prison for things of white people do all that. Again the case has come to us if the case has come to us subsequent -- -- I mean that's that's what that's how which got to be that and it's got to be an individual each individual has got to decide. You know that that lady justice has a blind -- and that's how we have to -- those of us that work in this system and it again it's -- people. -- it's of people system and you know you're gonna have some people who do the right thank you gonna have some people in the system I'm going to be honest with you who are corrupt we have seen that you have seen that I've heard you talk about that on a number of occasions. But -- bush bullet point is -- you look who's good and bad. That older low ball. But the system. Was bay. You sound like a good guard people I've talked to all record figure good on -- try and do the right. Same thing with comic and jokes and power. What the system. If you you're running a system. Where 90%. Plus some people. Don't reached -- over in this country acts to -- that -- beyond belief that. That that the legal system -- get together and say look it does this have to be broke and out of would change does that happen. Garland again it's up it's it is it is the the the province the that's the individual judges call the judge can say that look if you wanna go to trouble -- border regions that you if a lawyer. Representing some very good here a couple of thing. Tell you god you're -- please. Morgan given ten instead of five more. We'll -- it you won't buy this they're gonna bring -- actually one of the reason for their big night in the east opened people. -- Pleading -- the well it. Look I think I'm I'm gonna defend the system I'm not -- I'm not upset at this system has flaws. But to me it is the best criminal justice system that has been devised by man look -- income salacious afflicts him go little bit Q well no I I I think that the system can work. If the people who are in the system and that's what it's all buyout. This is about putting the right people in the right places to keep this thing going. I have I have advocated for a very long time. I don't care how effective the police or if they make a case and it's a good case if they do the right investigation. If they prepare good report. We review that report. And we think it's a great case and we accept -- were able to get a conviction. But if let's say a judge doesn't do the right thing with regard to a setting of upon -- -- or try to. Rehabilitate or change that person then that third card so to speak breaks down in the system breaks down. Keep in mind also that with regard. To the system this criminal justice system the rights or to the individual who is accused. The individual the defendant know that defended. Many people believed that well but I mean that again but that's got back to approach but it but Garland that's. I picked it up really rock and got to take a break for news. Keep that thought -- come right back to that finished more troops. Leo and killers are New Orleans district attorney anything I gotta get the -- -- really until -- come up here. To talk about. Good thing the use recruiting unit. To ensure fair convictions in this setting working with the rate organs and the and some broad. And when we get into a big -- many things concerning the law so I appreciate you coming. And and at least listening you would get residency so you remember where you were. Yes I do and thank you you know you made the point about the the that the accused in many cases. Is. -- forced to plead guilty because of financial considerations. Was -- threat of jail. I as I mentioned to you you know one of the things we certainly try to address and we try to address that is look at it. It didn't matter to me it's still doesn't matter to me. Whether someone goes to trial. Or whether someone pleads guilty I think the sentence that the judge hands down. Should be something that is designed such that that individual does never. Does not ever come back into the criminal justice system again. If the judge gives that person a sentence the probation or jail. Where he never comes back then that's a success story if he gives him a sentence in it comes and individual comes back then we feel with regard to that individual. The point is that it that the right the choice. Is to be made by the accused the defendant has that choice that's not whether he goes to trial -- the state can't control whether he goes to trial or whether he plead guilty. That is something that is solely. With the end of the purview of the person who is accused that's why he has the private attorney in your right -- look I understand. That that the justice system can be extremely expensive I understand that. I'd like to also think that what we have seen. In Orleans parish since Katrina I think we have seen and improved. Public defender's office in Orleans -- I think the the person who cannot afford counsel. Is getting better representation. And Orleans parish post-Katrina. Then he did before Katrina. I don't think these young men and women walked in there and simply say I want to plead this guy guilty just because someone getting off my doctor. Under the private lawyers don't do that they come in there and they were very very hard to try to to try to. Certainly helped their clients get the very best they can't for their clients. I think that to a large extent many times we see people in the criminal justice system. We see them because other aspects of our society -- -- -- have broken down that that's just the way it is look. I've heard you talk about some of the ills of the educational system in the city of new war -- who suffered because of that our children. If a child doesn't get the appropriate education. And that -- cannot be expected to be competitive in the job market and we -- we had some problems with the job market in the city of new war. We see that we have you know again our economy. Might not be the best this is look this is a port city we we understand that I can tell you when we go to the council and to the mayor. Every year for our budget. We get told look we we can't necessarily afford to give you guys that things that you really need to do this may be like it should be done so what we have done is we have done. More with less. We've reformed I think a system I think we have we have we have. Goal went in and we've looked at the system and we took over and we saw look there was some serious problems. We saw people getting out of jail because. May be the DA's office wasn't doing the things they were supposed to do in reviewing cases. In up in a quick enough fashion so people got out of jail without even having to go to go to trial. We saw the DA's office where they basically refused half of the cases that the police were bringing to them and again people. Work or even convicted goals -- things in my opinion that our heels within assist those are things -- change. Again. A person that comes into the system. I have to deal with that individual I have a responsibility to deal with that individual I'm going to deal with them as fairly as I possibly can't. He's committed a crime of violence I'm gonna go after him aggressively. I've told if it's a nonviolent offense first and even sometimes second. I -- prevent him from escalating because I know if we don't work with that individual if we don't give them an opportunity to educate himself. To maintain employment and stay off of the drugs there's an excellent chance he's going to come back in tourists into our system and it's sort of comeback is a violent offender. As the I just -- it one last point. The point is that education is so closely related to what we do when criminal justice our member on the bench several years ago. There was a study done of the individuals who came into the criminal justice system in the parish jail. They came into the criminal justice system and they just got a ged just their ged. While they were incarcerated. There was an excellent chance almost like 8085%. They never came back into the criminal justice system again it is about education look I'm not gonna tell our system is perfect and I know look. There if somebody can devise a better system. You wanna sit down have a constitutional convention and sit down with the Al talk about things that maybe we can do to make it better to improve a point. But I do think it is one of the best systems devised by man because it is about the people and when it does truly work the people the people in our community sit down and decide. Whether that individual is guilty or not guilty because essentially they say. What conduct they are going to tolerate or not tolerate in their community and to meet. That is one of the greatest warned of democracy that we. All right taking a break come right back listening to New Orleans if she currently on -- Earl. -- and good news you wanted to ensure -- convictions in the suit on and are welcome back. Good good certainly Julio encounters are women and we're we're we're having a debate out there and continue. Went when I look at it and puncher who approaches doesn't affect you and everything every. Says that sheriffs and deputies. Often works in cases or along the same. We've got a look at the -- -- Alabama reducing the prison population. This is -- reducing the prison population. Taxes. They even call it the why don't -- and conservative case for reform and reduce. Everybody from California. Virginia to Florida -- I can gore on and on and reducing prison populations. All of these states saving millions. By reducing the inmate populations. Closing prison. And when you guys -- excuse -- the argument of well who do you god won't put in jail how many times you won't charge would put him in jail. That's not the debate the debate is can you really tell -- this system is working. We'd look if like Google Louisiana population I mean prison in order again at Louisiana as the world's prison count. Courts liberation rates five times or wrong its thirteenth on China twenty -- sure that it is that a system that worked. Oh absolutely not I agree with that it's not working I think I I do agree. That the prison system. Has got to be designed so that when individuals go there and hopefully. They go there for. Offenses. On that do not involve serious crimes that are gonna keep them there for significant periods of time but if someone is required to go to jail. Then that person gets the necessary services and again. You know -- we talked a little bit about this. All researchers say when you reduce the prison population. You bring you up to and to millions of dollars of -- -- use exactly what you're talking. And not look Garland I agree if an individual can get the hell. Without going to jail that I advocate doing that that's that's the purpose of the diversion program we give the person that help we think they're needing. Mean without having the stigma of the felony conviction and that it becomes extremely important down the road. But if for an since they do not they're not willing or they're not ready for whatever reason. To accept the program and if it is necessary and they come back into the system and they come back with another charge in the end of the judge gives -- probation. And the probation officer doesn't address the concerns and the judges is forced let's say to revoke the probation and put that individual in jail. That individuals probably not going to be going to jail for any significant period of time but during that time that he's in jail if you simply just. As the term is warehouse that person. If you do not try to get him. It's some form of education some jobs deal any and I think it's extremely important I think in the state system and I know this involves funding but. You know these things we've got to find the funny for like the feds do. Don't just release some. You know we hear horror stories aware. A young person gets released from the department corrections and they dropping off on the corner of -- and brought -- -- -- -- in the morning. Or Friday morning what's in -- okay now go home. That to me is ridiculous there should be some sort of re integration re acclamation in this society -- Anyway how are you what you're saying not totally -- my question you. We got cold hard groups and others states. That by reducing. The population. Morning it's free it up -- exactly. What cured George talking about. But when we have this conversation and we. We get involved isn't. Or you want to -- -- charged with cocaine port and five diamonds are excellent. That's not the debate the debate is if we saved the Monday. Approving -- people in prison. We have the money to make a difference. And with the all other states doing this except. It's how to we keep. Still making -- argument. That the way we're doing it is the bright boy. I think I think unfortunately you know your -- asking me this is something I deal with it from my perspective. I'm not I'm not the jailer but from my perspective. I think that with the resources and I have I have I have advocated. Tirelessly. Spoke until I'm blue in the face in front of state legislatures in front of city councils and asking for the funding. Because I deal with the person keep in mind I am not. I deal with the person once the police officer has made an arrest charge him with a crime and that I have to decide what is the appropriate charge if Fannie. And then I have an obligation to pursue that short. I think some of the things you're referring to involve situations that the for the person comes into the justice system. Things that we can do sort of all and I agree with that I agree with it certainly we don't have enough look. You mentioned -- substance abuse counseling a gigantic problem. It's. Education a problem that I think we have addressed extremely well a problem you mentioned off the -- is a gigantic problem mental health issues. Don't necessarily have the resource is from a public perspective to deal with many of the people that we see unfortunately who suffer from the mental health issues. There are some problems I agree with that. And -- unfortunately in Orleans parish we're asked to address many of those concerns through the criminal justice system. And we doing the best we -- -- Reports from -- at the stage from for a onlookers say they're doing and the results are. Would you be willing and dribbled through the legislature to the sheriffs and particularly southern. Or would take a look at this because of we -- up money. We can change the system. To make -- -- prince instead of just present that Lincoln's. I think certainly if you have the services available to people on the outside. And -- individual has to be willing to walking into a facility and say look I've got a problem I need help. And then their -- to be a facility in place to help them -- treat that. Understand that many people might not have the resources in order to do that he is going to have to have these. Public facilities for real I greet -- on I agree I agree look I'm I don't I don't. Advocate. Throwing the substance abuser in jail if that's all he's doing. And that that's not that's not that's not the way we worked look it if I understand that if we don't deal with them. In if he doesn't do the things that are necessary in order to get him off of off of the drugs. I realize that individual could develop into a violent offender and then I have to deal with -- a whole lot differently. Then if he is simply a drug user and that's what I say some of these petty offenses have to be taken seriously. So that no one escalates into a more serious criminal. All right Luke let me go on record like Cuba thinker to put a good job all -- use. This debate -- do is debate about the system. And I haven't we share of side of the police achieved. And I think. Do you do the people of this they'd have to be educated. To win we hear you prize. Went boom we feared that it's the best system in the world. -- argue with that does this system in this state. Is horribly broken all the war. Who wouldn't have been courts racial group we have with everybody at front and changes because they say it doesn't work. Last word up you got -- I was. Is going to say efforts like thank you for giving me this opportunity it's been very spirit though he's been a very spirited debate and I know we've had this. Are on the number vacation sort of off the record -- good god to come up well and I look I appreciated and I think you certainly give us something to think about I stand by what I set I am very proud of the criminal justice system that we have in the United States of America. It is of people system and and you're also correct that people have the right to modify change -- are adjusted as they see fit. And I think intelligent people sit down and talk about it. I've I do not believe in scrapping the whole system. And because and I think I think there would be problems I think it's certainly it has worked. I think it works in the overwhelming majority of cases. And I think the problem that we're seeing is the criminal justice system is being strained. Is being strained and it doesn't necessarily have the resources and I understand which is if we don't put people in jail. We -- of resource is to do other things. I wish -- that those other things however would be directed to addressing some of the criminal justice concerns. Leon if we don't have these kind of debates you can't tell people -- you're right we know that he's completely nothing yesterday really appreciate them. Thank you very much. All right don't go waiting -- -- -- -- -- -- -- She did have been doing here they'll have the good friend that they've cornered the -- from volume. And and don't go away. Yeah.