By Kimberly Curth | WVUE | December 1, 2020
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) –Rafael Goyeneche with the Metropolitan Crime Commission says the backlog in cases at Orleans Parish Criminal District Court right now due to the ongoing pandemic is similar to what New Orleans experienced following Hurricane Katrina, with one big difference.
“The population of the city didn’t leave, they’ve been here and unfortunately crime has been increasing in 2020,” said Goyeneche. “You’re looking at in excess of 150 people in custody on murder charges waiting to be tried.”
FOX 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti says once the court system is in a position to manage the backlog he expects to see trials for defendants in jail prioritized over those who are out on bond.
“I think everybody should be concerned that fair and equitable justice in a timely fashion is meted out in their parish, it’s a safety issue, it’s a quality of life issue and it’s important, it’s very important that we get this right, there was nothing they could do because of the pandemic, but there is something they will be able to do in a few months,” Raspanti said.
FOX 8 spoke with the candidates for Orleans Parish District Attorney. Both former judge Keva Landrum and City Council Member-At-Large Jason Williams say, if elected, they will prioritize violent crime cases when addressing the backlog.
“I am going to focus on the most serious cases, murder, rape and armed robbery that are occurring in our community which means diverting some of the addiction issues, mental health issues, some of the crimes of poverty, we’re going to try to divert those things immediately into a more robust diversion program,” Williams said.
“My plan is going to be to stand at the helm of the table, call all of the criminal justice actors together, the public defenders office, the sheriff’s office, the court system, so that we can sit down, the police department, and formulate a system, that number 1 prioritizes our violent crime cases, but also, most importantly, evaluates our non-violent crime cases, our low level cases, so, that we can make assessments swiftly,” said Landrum.
Goyeneche says he doesn’t see much changing at Criminal District Court until COVID-19 vaccines are distributed nationwide.
“This is going to be a year that the system has been shut down or throttled down and it’s going to take a good year or longer to catch up, just to get to the pre-Covid levels,” said Goyeneche.
The runoff election between Landrum and Williams for Orleans Parish District Attorney will take place Saturday December 5.