By Matt Sledge l Nola.com I April 6, 2020
Three days after a reputed 6th Ward gang leader was released from jail — in part because of the danger posed to inmates by the novel coronavirus — he was shot dead on the block where police accused him of peddling heroin.
The Sunday afternoon death of 33-year-old Glynn McCormick has already emerged as a flash point in the debate over releases from local jails as the coronavirus infects more inmates and staffers.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said a state judge went too far in springing a man accused of a long list of criminal behavior. McCormick’s attorney accused the DA of playing politics with a homicide.
The debate comes as the New Orleans jail’s population dips to historically low numbers. On Monday, the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office had 834 people in custody, down more than 200 from when the coronavirus crisis began in Louisiana.
Epidemiologists and public defenders have pushed for speedy releases to prevent inmates and guards from catching COVID-19. Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said last week that there hasn’t been an overall crime spike in recent weeks.
McCormick wound up dead anyway. He had a long history of drug arrests and a dismissed domestic violence charge on his record before prosecutors charged him in a gang indictment in May 2018.
McCormick was accused of being a ringleader in a drug dealing operation on “D-Block,” the notorious 2600 block of Dumaine Street. Before Sunday, seven homicides had occurred on it or nearby.
Cannizzaro’s office said that McCormick, also known as “Spot,” was caught before the indictment with 227 grams of heroin, an assault-style rifle and $14,000 in cash. More drugs and money were found upon his arrest, according to police.
McCormick stayed in the lock-up until last week, when defense attorney John Fuller argued that his client should be released because of the coronavirus’s spread at the jail and his client’s long wait for trial.
Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Darryl Derbigny ordered McCormick’s release on his own recognizance over the objections of New Orleans prosecutors. He left the jail on Thursday.
McCormick was ordered to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet and observe a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew, according to Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
Just before 3 p.m. Sunday, police received a report of a shooting at Dumaine and N. Broad streets. Cops found McCormick lying on the ground and he was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. No suspects have been identified, though police have said the assailant pulled up in an SUV, fired the shots and drove away.
Cannizzaro said the killing is proof that McCormick never should have been released.
“This man’s violent death was completely avoidable,” Cannizzaro said in a statement. “So too was the extreme danger this spray of gunfire posed to the surrounding neighborhood residents sheltering in their homes during this health emergency. Perhaps this judge thought he was doing someone a favor disregarding our objection. But as we argued last week, Mr. McCormick’s release served no public health need and certainly no public safety purpose.”
Goyeneche also said that Derbigny went too far in releasing McCormick and co-defendant Johnny Johnson.
“This was an inevitable byproduct of these policies, where I think the public safety interests are being viewed as secondary to the interests of someone that may contract a virus,” Goyeneche said.
Goyeneche said that Derbigny also erred by releasing McCormick on a curfew rather than strict home confinement.
Derbigny didn’t respond to a request for comment made through the court.
McCormick’s lawyer, Fuller, said he had no regrets about securing his client’s release and accused the DA of politicizing a tragedy.
“When his body was still warm, the District Attorney’s Office and the MCC saw this as an opportunity gloat about the murder of a young man,” Fuller said. “The judge didn’t release the person that shot my client.”
Fuller said he had spoken with McCormick’s relatives, who expressed shock and disbelief.
“The general impression was that Glynn isn’t into any type of beef with anybody,” Fuller said.