Wednesday, April 13, 2016

NOLA criminal justice update

NOPD:  Well, you've probably seen the Will Smith news, dot dot dot, so you've at least been tangentially reminded that the police here are liable to surround and shoot the mentally ill dead in the street on occasion.  Because the internet has instructed us not to speculate about the direct connections between that incident and the current one, we will only say that it's a serious thing when the police kill someone. It's the sort of serious thing that has repercussions on the lives of the people near it. 

On the same night as the Smith shooting, New Orleans voters turned down a millage proposal that would have, in part, shoveled more money into a department that people just don't trust.
The widespread public trust that is required to sign off on a $17 million annual tax increase just isn’t there among large numbers of voters. This trust can only be rebuilt over time, when NOPD consistently demonstrates to voters that resources they already have will be managed wisely to provide prompt public safety services. But right now, without that trust, even voters I know who were planning to support the millage were well-versed in reasons to vote no, and many were worried that they would simply be throwing good money after bad.

Gusmanland:  We were certain we would finally get all this unconstitutionally cruel treatment of inmates under control once the big new jail finally opened. The new jail opened. That hasn't gone so well.
The corrections expert monitoring conditions at the city’s new jail told a federal judge Thursday that parts of the facility should be closed — and the inmates relocated — until deputies can be properly trained to operate the $150 million building.

“It’s a hard recommendation to make, but if it were up to us, we would close the facility floor by floor until it can be successfully operated,” the expert, Susan McCampbell, told U.S. District Judge Lance Africk.

“We’re really regressing to what should have happened in September (when the building opened) to make this a safe and secure environment.”

McCampbell, who has been appointed to monitor the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office’s compliance with a series of court-ordered jail reforms, recommended that Sheriff Marlin Gusman implement “aggressive, well thought-out and evidence-based training on how to run a direct-supervision facility,” citing a level of jailhouse violence she described as unacceptable.

Inmates continue to attack one another — and deputies — in the Orleans Justice Center at an alarming rate, she said.
Sheriff Gusman maintains that his longstanding budget dispute with the city is at the root of the problem. 
Gusman wants an additional $7.1 million to give raises to his deputies and staff; another $500,000 to buy new equipment; $200,000 to recruit more deputies and whatever it might take to add 200 new employees to the Sheriff's Office ranks next year.

It's now up to the council to balance those differences.

Gusman said he presently has more than 700 employees on the payroll.

"We're hoping to get 1,450 inmates (in the new jail). How in the world could we need 900 employees?" Councilwoman Stacy Head asked.

"It's the staffing pattern in the facility," Gusman said.
And maybe he's right about that. At the same time, his "staffing pattern" itself might also be a problem. 
Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman appears to have misused more than $1 million in state funds by giving law-enforcement bonuses to employees who weren’t eligible, according to a report released Monday by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor.

The report also found serious irregularities in off-duty work — allegations that echo a federal charge against a former deputy — and problems with a $230,000 renovation contract involving John Sens, Gusman’s former purchasing director. He was convicted for his role in a bribery scheme in 2013.

The state-funded Deputy Sheriff’s Supplemental Pay program provides up to $500 per month for commissioned deputies throughout Louisiana who are primarily involved in law enforcement.

Gusman is responsible for ensuring his employees’ eligibility, swearing to it on forms submitted to the state. The Legislative Auditor’s report says Gusman may have violated state law by requesting and receiving the pay on behalf of employees who didn’t primarily do law-enforcement work.
Either way we're a ways off from having a constitutionally sound facility into which anyone rounded up by our untrustworthy police force might be deposited.

Public Defender: The good news is we can't afford to send anyone to the unconstitutional jail anyway since we can't afford to provide the requisite semblance of a fair trial that might put them there. 
In a potentially blockbuster ruling, an Orleans Parish judge on Friday ordered seven indigent inmates released from jail because of a lack of state money for attorneys to represent them amid a squeeze on public defense funding in New Orleans and across Louisiana.

However, Criminal District Court Judge Arthur Hunter stayed his order, which also included a suspension of the men’s prosecutions, pending an appeal from District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office. Assistant District Attorney David Pipes told Hunter an appeal is coming, and Hunter gave him 10 days.

The seven men will remain behind bars pending the outcome of that appeal.

All of them face serious felony charges — including murder, armed robbery and aggravated rape — and all have been deemed indigent. Most have spent more than a year behind bars, going months without legal help on their cases, attorneys said.
It just makes sense that everyone interested in maintaining a sound and effective criminal justice system would want to ensure that a key cog in that machine like the Public Defender's office would be able to function. Certainly the District Attorney would be able to see how vital an issue that is. Oh, except...

The DA's Office is full of dicks: Because, of course it is.
The deep rancor between the Orleans Public Defenders and District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office boiled over Tuesday (April 12), with the parish's top-ranking indigent attorney accusing the DA's office in open court of unethical conduct and bullying tactics.

"There is concern among my attorneys and staff that they might be charged for doing their jobs," chief public defender Derwyn Bunton testified. "They are scared and concerned, because the district attorney has a penchant for charging them for talking to witnesses."
I'd say the lesson here is try not to get into trouble in New Orleans. But, as we've just seen, even a fender bender can escalate pretty quickly into something ugly. So, for now, just hope trouble doesn't find you. 

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