What We’re Saying: DA’s Office Needs A Makeover

An article that recently appeared in the guardian.com hit close to home. Well, actually it was about home and the antics of the Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, who’s office declined to be interviewed for the report.

Long story short. The people of Orleans Parish ought to be seriously concerned that Cannizzaro is allegedly using his office to intimidate defense attorneys and investigators. According to the article:

“At least six defense attorneys and investigators say they faced threats of criminal charges by the Orleans parish district attorney for doing their jobs, the Guardian has found. Since DA Leon Cannizzaro took office in 2009, the attorneys have been accused of kidnapping, impersonation and witness tampering in the course of defending their clients. Each case has failed to stand up to scrutiny: all charges that have been brought were eventually dropped or overturned.”

A young former investigator with the public defender’s office described in the article how her life has been negatively impacted by bogus charges.

Bennett Gershman, a professor at Pace Law School who studies prosecutorial misconduct, was interviewed for the report, saying it seemed to him that Cannizzaro and his prosecutors could be using their charging power to gain a competitive advantage or to intimidate defense attorneys.

Gersham also said, “I can’t think of any way to justify what the prosecutor’s office has done.”

Neither can we!

In fact, this prosecutorial behavior is just one in a litany of others that have had us scratching our heads over here at The New Orleans Tribune. Let’s see, there is locking up or threatening to lock up witnesses and accusers, including a rape survivor, who are hesitant to testify, perhaps because they fear for their safety. Then there was filing the enhancement charges against the fellow that allegedly stole $31 in candy for a local dollar store, turning a one year sentence into a possible 20 years to life in prison.

Yep, to us it seems that our DA is clearly perverting the long arm of the law when our leaders should be discussing and implementing ways to truly reform criminal justice in New Orleans and Louisiana.

We would be lying if we said we weren’t fed up with it. Aren’t you?

With municipal elections looming and all eyes and ears pointed to who is throwing their hats in the ring to reign at City Hall, we are far more interested in one or two qualified, well-prepared challengers ready to seek the top job in the parish’s prosecutor’s office.

Consider this a call to action. No, consider this a call for help! We desperately need a district attorney that understands one can and must blend compassion, justice, fairness and professionalism in order to serve the people of Orleans Parish as it district attorney. It is an ideal seemingly lost on Mr. Cannizzaro.

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