Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Who wants to run for Orleans District Attorney?

There is an interview on Chapo this week with Genevieve Jones-Wright who is a reform candidate for DA in San Diego. It's a good discussion covering a campaign against the carceral state that Jones-Wright and activists like her are waging across the country.  Perhaps the most well known success (caveat: it's early) of this movement to date is Larry Krasner's victory last year in Philadelphia.  District Attorney is a terrifyingly powerful office.  Look what you can do if you take it away from the bullies who tend to inhabit it.
Krasner has decided to use his prosecutorial discretion in unprecedented ways. He promised to never ask for cash bail for a nonviolent offender, which is perfectly legal and up to the prosecutor’s office. Cash bail has long been derided as a for-profit system that penalizes poor people before they are convicted of a crime.

Krasner also vowed to curb police corruption by prosecuting cops with as much zeal as the criminal-justice system targets others. His platform states that he will not prosecute cases where the police are abusive, and the new DA also vowed that he will end the illegal stop-and-frisk program by “refusing to bring to trial cases stemming from illegal frisks and searches.

The new prosecutor says that he will no longer seek the death penalty; nor will he seize any defendant’s assets until after a conviction has been made. Krasner also plans to steer cases of drug possession and nonviolent offenses toward treatment programs, and he says that he will seek to end the drug war by treating drug use as a medical problem.
New Orleans's own DA, Leon Cannizzaro has come under fire over the past year for his office's use of  "fake subpoenas" and other coercive measures to force victims of violent crime into dangerous and traumatizing testimony as well as his abuse of the state's heinous "habitual offender law" to impose absurdly harsh sentences for minor offenses.  Criminal justice reform movements in New Orleans are focused on these issues as well as the city's aggressive surveillance policies and the threat of ramped up immigration enforcement.  It's curious that Cannizzaro hasn't been much in the foreground of recent controversies over our status as a "Sanctuary City." Mitch seems to have been playing both sides of it. Leon, has barely been involved.

Anyway, these are some issues to be aware of as Cannizzaro's term comes up in 2020. There are already signs this could be a rough election. The new mayor doesn't particularly care for Leon, with good reason. But she and he are sufficiently phony and changeable to have reconciled by the time he starts to need powerful friends.  Jason Williams, also a regular sparring partner, is less likely to calm down and a possible candidate for DA, himself.  The various left leaning groups newly mobilized during the Trump reaction haven't made too much of a dent in local electoral politics so far. This could be where some of them start to make their presence felt.  Whether or not this makes for the emergence of a true reformist challenger remains to be seen. There's plenty of time left to watch but it's something to keep an eye on.

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