Data News Staff Edited Report
Last week District Attorney Jason Williams personally led his prosecutors into court and secured guilty verdicts in all three murder cases that went to trial.
“All of these men received fair trials, and after the work of my Assistant District Attorneys in court, a jury of their peers found them all guilty as charged on each and every count,” said District Attorney Williams. “Reform, fairness, justice and safety all go hand in hand. I want to be clear on what reform truly means. Reform means focusing on the worst offenders so that we can safely walk in our neighborhoods. And that is what my entire team has been working on since I was sworn into office a year ago.”
UNPRECEDENTED REALITIES AS JURY TRIALS RESUME
After a COVID-induced hiatus, jury trials resumed in New Orleans. While OPDA prosecutors are ready to get back to court, the office is faced with some unprecedented realities. This includes an unprecedented case backlog with 150 cases scheduled for trial in March 2022 alone; this is compared to only forty-eight jury trials that took place in all of 2019. Additionally, this includes an unprecedented DNA backlog with the State; the DNA backlog across Louisiana includes over 2,000 cases. OPDA is waiting on key evidence in a number of cases. Additionally, OPDA is tackling some of the most difficult cases inherited including retrying sixty reversals based on Ramos v. Louisiana, cases where the office was unable to procure unanimous jury verdicts when they were originally tried years ago.
As the caseload increases, OPDA needs additional staff, funding, and resources. District Attorney Williams continues to double down on his request to the New Orleans City Council and Mayor LaToya Cantrell to fund our requests for additional lawyers, more DNA testing analysts, and Cold Case funding to improve OPDA’s capacity and help prosecutors build stronger cases. The City of New Orleans has millions of dollars sitting in City coffers from the federal government that are earmarked for this exact need that are not being spent. OPDA needs immediate action to hire more people to handle this increased workload.
“We are prosecutors. Trying cases in front of a jury is what we do, so we are excited to be back to court. However, we are faced with some of the most unprecedented challenges this office has ever seen. From an increased case load to a large DNA backlog, our office needs support, and resources from City leadership,” said District Attorney Williams. “These times are absolutely the most challenging we’ve faced in recent history, but we are holding those who commit violent offenses accountable and securing justice for the victims and their families. This office will be steadfast in restoring trust in our Criminal Legal System by securing convictions in some of the most difficult cases as well as addressing decades of indifference to the concerns of community.”