By Travers Mackel | WDSU | October 13, 2021
NEW ORLEANS — A recent report by the nonprofit watchdog agency Metropolitan Crime Commission says the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office has refused or dismissed 937 violent felony cases since January of 2021.
That’s when District Attorney Jason Williams took office as the city’s top prosecutor.
The report says the New Orleans Police Department made 1,411 arrests from Jan. 11, 2021, through Sept. 10, 2021, for crimes deemed to be violent.
Charges like murder, attempted murder and robbery.
The MCC report says that Williams dismissed 54% of violent cases this year, compared to only 16-17% under the prior administration of former district attorney Leon Cannizzaro.
Williams won a heated race last year, running on a criminal justice reform platform.
A former criminal defense lawyer, he vowed to make the system “fair” for all defendants and target the city’s most violent offenders.
The report says that 20% of felony drug possession cases and 43% of drug distribution arrests were accepted for prosecution under Williams.
Under Williams, no cases have gone to trial in Orleans Parish.
As WDSU first reported earlier this month, that is due in part to a lack of potential jurors not showing up after receiving jury notices in Orleans Parish.
A copy of the MCC report was sent to Williams’ office this week.
WDSU received the following statement from First Assistant Bob White regarding the decision:
“Under District Attorney Jason Williams, the Orleans Parish DA’s Office has set a high standard for transparency and gone further than any DA’s Office in New Orleans to proactively provide data for the public on the work of this office. The first set of data was released on March 19, 2021 only 68 days into the administration. This was a commitment the DA made and will continue to live up to.
We are the first DA’s Office in New Orleans to have an in-house data analyst. We have also partnered with Prosecutors Performance Indicators initiative, the Vera Institute of Justice New Orleans, Loyola University and AH Datalytics – all credible and independent organizations – to further expand our information and data sharing capacity. All of these efforts have been made so that this office can publish even more information this quarter with the DA’s office new website and public dashboards. Our office is committed to directly providing ALL the people of New Orleans with data and statistics about its work and performance so that the people of this city can make up their own minds about the work of the office and not have Mr. Goyeneche tell them what to think.
When Rafael Goyeneche falsely asserted in June to Fox 8 that the DA’s Office did not oppose the bond reduction in the hearing of Bryan Andry who went on to murder an innocent community elder when court records clearly showed that in fact, we had opposed bond reduction – it was clear that our hope for a constructive and fair Metropolitan Crime Commission may have been for naught.
This cherry-picked data analysis in the MCC October 13 report indicates an antagonism to the progressive changes in the criminal legal system that the people of New Orleans voted for, and seeks to cause division when we are working hard with all stakeholders in the criminal legal system to increase safety and justice for New Orleans families. At just past noon on Monday, October 11, 2021, the DA was sent a draft of the MCC’s report, and the MCC president gave our office less than 24 hours to respond to its analysis of approximately 10,000 cases, without providing the underlying data. Failing to provide the underlying data and such an oddly short window to respond is worse than giving us no time at all – and it shows a lack of good faith on the part of Mr. Goyeneche and MCC.
It should be noted that the policies of this office over the past half century, while well-intentioned, were fostered by the Metropolitan Crime Commission. These policies have led to this city becoming the incarceration capital of the world and the city with the most exonerations of incarcerated persons, with a concurrent and steady decrease in public safety. We are striving to reverse these trends.”
This is a developing story, WDSU will have more as details become available.
Read the full MCC report here: