Edwin Buggage Editor-in-Chief
The voters in the City of New Orleans are already early voting for the Dec. 5th run-off election where several races and millage proposals are on the ballot. While all are important; the race that all are talking about is the contest for District Attorney between Keva Landrum and Jason Williams. Data News Weekly caught up with both of the candidates to talk about their campaigns.
[What is it that makes you the better choice for the people of New Orleans to represent them as the District Attorney? ]
I have served the people of New Orleans as their City Council President who chairs Criminal Justice Reform, a Judge, and respected defense attorney for over 20 years. In all of these roles, the people have seen me fight for them and to make our city fairer and equitable. They have seen me fight for those less fortunate. And the people of New Orleans know that I will bring that same spirit to transform the Criminal Legal System to increase safety and justice for everyone.
Our people have seen the results of the plans and record of my opponent. It has denied justice for too many in our community, especially Black men, and has not made our families safer. My opponent is promising more “tough on crime” which means that our communities will be targeted, our young people won’t get the same treatment as others with means, and the DA’s office will focus on non- violent petty offenses that set traps for people versus focusing on the crimes that the people want to see an end to. The people of New Orleans know me and know that I will prioritize violent crime, get illegal guns off the street, get the right perpetrators causing harm, and increase support to people who have mental or drug challenges versus funneling them into the jail and increasing the mass incarceration injustice in our city.
Starting at a very young age, I aspired to become a community leader. In my legal career, I served as an Assistant District Attorney and rose through the ranks to become interim DA in 2007, and also served as Chief Judge of Criminal District Court. I gained a unique perspective as to what leadership qualities this office needs. I believe that I am the only candidate in this race with the experience needed to deliver on meaningful Criminal Justice Reform while prosecuting violent criminals, both of which I have a proven track record of doing successfully throughout my career.
As a former District Attorney and Chief Judge of Criminal District Court, I understand the importance of prosecuting violent criminals and pursuing justice for victims and their families. I have also seen the toll an unfair system can take on our community. Serving as a former prosecutor including as Supervisor of the Sex Crimes Division coupled with having served as a Judge in Criminal District Court has provided me with the right balance, knowledge and skill set needed to lead this office.
If I were allowed only one word to explain why I am the better candidate for District Attorney of New Orleans, I would choose the word “experience.” I have experience as an Assistant District Attorney trying violent crimes of rape, murder, sexual and physical abuse of children, armed robberies, carjackings, and more. As the acting District Attorney of New Orleans, I led the Office through chaotic times and stabilized it. As an elected Judge at Criminal Court in New Orleans, and as the Chief Judge, I saw every day for 11 years the good, the bad, and the ugly in the system.
[There’s been historic racism in the Criminal Justice System that’s adversely affected African Americans. Today many are demanding reforms in the Criminal Justice System. What are your thoughts on Criminal Justice Reform and if elected what is it that you see is the most pressing issue facing the DA Office?]
I will review every area and division of the office to identify policies, procedures, conduct, or attitudes that condone, allow, or cause racism. I will examine charging practices, sentencing recommendations, diversion recommendations, bail recommendations, plea offers; in short. I will examine every part of the office for possible racial inequity or bias. When found, these will be eliminated. Corrective policies will be promulgated, and training will ensue, designed to prevent any recurrences. Even absent specific racist findings, anti-racist and anti-bias training will be provided to all staff. I will work with law enforcement to correct and prevent racist behavior in their ranks and will offer to sponsor and participate in joint trainings for D.A.’s and police. I will investigate thoroughly and fairly any criminal charges against law enforcement personnel.
In my opinion, the most pressing problem for the office is the lack of confidence and support for the office in the New Orleans community at large. As District Attorney, it will be my immediate task to begin the work to improve and reform, the behavior, attitude, and policies that have caused this lack of confidence. This lack of confidence causes a host of problems, among them poor morale and high turnover of attorneys.
In addition to my vision and platform outlined above, I believe that real Criminal Justice Reform begins with a commitment to reform our bail system. As the former Chief Judge, I was instrumental in spearheading the current Pretrial Services Program at Criminal District Court. As District Attorney, I will ensure people don’t remain in jail simply because they can’t afford to pay. My Administration will begin with the premise that people are innocent until proven guilty and the purpose of bail is to ensure individuals return for future court appearances. We will also evaluate individuals charged with violent crimes using a pre-trial risk assessment tool to determine public safety risks and protect victims and witnesses of violent crime and domestic violence.
As District Attorney my goal is to reduce pretrial incarceration by offering rehabilitation to non-violent offenders. My Administration will seek to link individuals with the services they need. We will expand diversion for those with a history of drug abuse and addiction with treatment, mental health care, and job training.
I agree to work to reduce all racial disparities and overcriminalization. Regarding the elimination of unaffordable fines and fees, we will seek to consider alternatives, but much of that is determined by statutory mandates and judicial discretion. With respect to alternatives to incarceration for misdemeanors, we agree that it would be appropriate with all nonviolent offenses while protecting the victims of domestic violence.
I have said for years that the Criminal Legal System is racist and sexist. It was designed to marginalize and oppress. Today, the system is not broken. It is operating just as it was designed to operate. Because it was designed by men, it can be redesigned to deliver justice and safety. But make no mistake about it.
I am the only candidate in this race that the people of New Orleans has seen leading Criminal Justice Reform for years. I did not just start using the terms. The people have seen me write the legislation to decriminalize marijuana because the oppressive laws have led to the mass incarceration of too many poor people in our community and has eroded our families.
The people saw me work to reform the Money Bail System and help reduce the number of people in jail just because they don’t have money to pay for bail. And the people of New Orleans saw me stand up to Cannizzaro when he was issuing fake subpoenas and jailing victims.
The most pressing issue with the DA’s Office is changing the culture and mindset that is focused on locking up everyone irrespective of innocence and failing to hold people accountable without putting the legal system stamp on them. I have a record of standing up, speaking out, and delivering change. As our next District Attorney, I will make New Orleans proud by what we’re able to achieve together to increase safety and justice.
[There is a perception problem with the DA’s Office left by the former DA. What will you do to make the public confident that the office will operate with integrity and transparency to produce better results for the people of New Orleans?]
The D.A.’s office is suffering from a serious decline in public confidence. Public confidence cannot be restored by paper plans and promises. As District Attorney, I plan to earn the respect and support of the citizens of New Orleans by working all day, every day to implement the plans, policies, and reforms I have stated in the answers to these questions. Through transparency, through integrity, through a commitment to justice and anti-racism in every area of the District Attorney’s office, the office can become highly effective in promoting the safety of citizens. This is a big, important job and I am ready to take it on.
As City Council President and Criminal Justice Committee Chair, I developed public dashboards to increase information sharing and transparency with the public. I will do the exact same thing as DA so that the public has the information needed to hold me accountable. I also developed the Jerome Smith Criminal Justice Citizen Advisory Council to allow citizens to help set priorities in criminal justice and law enforcement budget priorities. As District Attorney, I will establish a Citizen Advisory Board of Advocates and victims to help ensure we are hearing of the needs, responsive, and rebuild trust.
[Is there anything else that you would like to tell the voters as they head to the polls regarding you candidacy? ]
Please visit Kevalandrum.com to learn more about my candidacy!
I was born in New Orleans and love this city with everything that I have. I am raising three kids in this city and I want to be District Attorney so that my kids and yours can be safe and grow up to be prosperous, productive, and add to our amazing culture. This is a defining moment for us. This vote for DA is a once-in- a-generation opportunity to transform a racist and sexist Criminal Legal System that is oppressive and that has not made us safer. I encourage the people of New Orleans to not give in to the fear that my opponent and her supporters want you to have. You can have both safety and justice. Don’t let anyone scare you into believing that the only way to have safety is by continuing to throw our brothers, sisters, and young people into jail for petty offenses while failing to provide people with mental illness and drug addiction the real help they need. We can vote for a change agent and increase safety and justice. I sincerely hope I can earn your vote.
Data News Weekly Encourages All to Get Out and Vote
Both Keva Landrum and Jason Williams are making their cases to the people of New Orleans to become the DA. They have both garnered much support for this coveted post. Ultimately, it will be up to the voters to decide on on Dec. 5th who will become the next District Attorney.