Tuesday, September 09, 2014


We're about to get into the thick of campaign season. But the Orleans Parish DA's race is still embroiled in the JurocraticTM stage.   It looks like Lon Burns is going to get another chance to show his paperwork is in order.
Judge Dennis R. Bagneris, who wrote the majority opinion for the 4th Circuit, said Judge Tiffany Chase erred when she did not extend the trial an extra day to allow Burns to call his tax preparer, Monica Jackson, to the stand.

Burns, a former Orleans Parish prosecutor, told the court he filed returns for 2010 to 2014 in August of 2014. He submitted copies of those returns into evidence during the hearing.

However, an employee from the Louisiana Department of Revenue testified that after performing an updated search he still had no such records.

Chase ruled against Burns, barring him from the race.

In his ruling, Bagneris said that by refusing to allow Burns to call Jackson, the district court violated his due process rights. He remanded the case to the district level.
Burns might already know a thing or two about violating due process rights.  He honed that particular skill back when he worked for Harry Connick. James Gill recounted this story in a recent column.

Open-file discovery, Burns explains, will “help to prevent wrongful convictions as well as expensive retrials.” He certainly will recall one expensive retrial, because he caused it.

That was in 2000, when an ex-New Orleans cop named George Lee was in the middle of his third trial for rape. His second one had been abandoned because the prosecution team, which included Burns, had withheld witness statements from the defense.

Next time around, Burns, now the lead prosecutor, put a cop on the stand and asked him to check the back pocket of some pants seized from Lee. When the cop pulled out a bunch of napkins, the courtroom was abuzz with astonishment. The scene of the rape had been littered with napkins that Lee allegedly used to wipe himself. Although no semen had been found on the napkins, the discovery of the napkins was clearly calculated to incriminate Lee.

Judge Arthur Hunter was convinced that Burns had planted the napkins and sentenced him to six months in the slammer for contempt.

The appeal court upheld Hunter, but, when the case came up for a Supreme Court hearing, Connick himself put in an appearance to declare Burns guiltless. “No one has to tell me if my prosecutors did anything wrong. I will not tolerate it,” he said. That remark seems most humorous in light of subsequent revelations, (Ed: Reginald Adams link added by me) but maybe Connick’s views did carry weight, for the justices wound up delivering an opinion that employed some far-fetched reasoning to give Burns a break.
This is not to say that the the challenge to Burns's candidacy on tax filing grounds isn't  a waste of time. Jarvis Deberry says that it's possibly even an abuse of power on DA Cannizzaro's part.
Burns is fighting to get back on the ballot, but even if he's successful in that regard, the chances of him unseating Cannizzaro are slim to none. That's why the thought of somebody in Cannizzaro's office working - privately or otherwise - to get Burns off the ballot is all the more disturbing. Why should getting Burns off the ballot be anybody's aim? Can Cannizzaro not tolerate anybody challenging  him?

See what I did there? I linked Martin's actions to Cannizzaro because - whether Martin likes it or not - that's what happens when you are the assistant to a high-ranking public official. What you do, on and off the clock, reflects on the person above.

Martin might argue that he gets to be something other than the first assistant to the district attorney whenever it's convenient for him not to be.

On the other hand the question of whether a candidate for DA can be counted on to execute his office in an ethical and constitutionally sound matter is far more relevant than whether or not he remembered to file a tax return on time. Clearly Burns's own record with regard to evidence suppression, not to mention simply having been employed as a deputy to the notorious Connick, reflects on him. Right, Jarvis?

No comments: