By Theresa Schmidt | KPLC | October 28, 2021
Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) – How efficiently do law enforcement, prosecutors and judges work together in the judicial system?
President of the Metropolitan Crime Commission Rafael Goyeneche says there are positives.
“You don’t hold people accountable if you stop at probable cause,” Goyeneche said. “You need to develop proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the standard to go forward with a prosecution and obtain a conviction. And we’re seeing that done in almost every major felony category in Calcasieu Parish.”
The agency has been studying the criminal justice system in Calcasieu Parish since 2016.
Its evaluation starts with the years between 2015 and 2017 looking at arrests, prosecutions and the outcomes of felony cases.
The MCC is a non-profit privately funded citizens organization dedicated to exposing public corruption and improving the justice system in our state.
Their comprehensive look at our criminal justice system finds there is room for improvement. Their research shows three areas need improvement.
- More efficient processing of felony cases through the court.
- Improved supervision and services for suspects with open felony cases.
- More chances to keep drug and property offenders from backsliding, especially those out of jail on bond while their cases are pending.
“Those felony offenders composed 25% of the backlog of the cases in the 14th Judicial District Court,” Goyeneche said.
Goyeneche also says judges need to address a backlog of pending cases.
“We’re talking about docket size,” Goyeneche said. “The most efficient judge may have fewer than 300 cases. The least efficient judge had over 500 open cases. Justice delayed is justice denied. And being greater than a year old doesn’t mean that the case is only a year old. Some of these cases are several years old.”
The sheriff and DA say they are pleased to have the reports to help guide efforts to improve.
Goyeneche says the project cost about $1 million.
The commission will continue to evaluate the Calcasieu criminal justice system here for the next two years to help bring accountability to the performance of the new DA and new judges.