The election for Orleans Parish district attorney is still more than 300 days away, but the ad war that is expected to define the race has already begun thanks to a local political action committee that has sponsored a billboard along I-10 in New Orleans blasting incumbent District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, over his office’s recent handling of domestic violence cases.
People Over Politics, a group originally formed to support Gov. John Bel Edwards, has entered the fray over the DA’s decision to drop a supermajority of local domestic violence cases, which are often plagued by scant evidence or accusers who refuse or are afraid to testify against alleged batterers in open court.
Several analyses, including one done by The Lens, indicate the DA has failed to move forward on mored 80 percent of domestic violence cases in 2018 and 2019, sending shockwaves through the city’s small community of domestic violence prevention advocates.
The controversy over the DA’s handling of domestic violence cases comes after a 2014 study by the city’s Office of Inspector General dinging the New Orleans Police Department’s oversight of sexual assault reports. The report cited the department for misclassifying more than 40 percent of sex crime cases with subsequent reporting noting a failure to properly process scores of rape kits.
The challenges of the criminal justice system to properly adjudicate issues largely impacting women disproportionately effects Black New Orleanians, with the New Orleans Family Justice Center calling the issues facing Black women and children “a crisis.”
The DA’s office plans to hold a closed-door summit later this month to address the concerns over the issue and bring together various civic and public stakeholders to better provide wrap-around support for those experiencing intimate partner violence.