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WWL>Topics>>6-9 1:10pm Open Mind: Leon Cannizzaro

6-9 1:10pm Open Mind: Leon Cannizzaro

Jun 9, 2014|

Angela talks to Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro about accountability in the criminal justice system and the cooperation between the District Attorney's office and the NOPD.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

Happy Monday everyone and it is a beautiful one little toasty but that's OK we've got a good breeze. I think we also have three very good hours I'm very excited about are for show DA Leon Canas -- our guest for the whole hour. Busy guy is gonna spend time with us so again if you have any thoughts or questions give us a call. Our second hour is sort of a a shift from that. The sad news is Louisiana was named the worst in the nation. When it comes to regards of working mothers and it's based on the criteria of nine areas we're bringing in a couple of experts to look at why why why why. Why is that happening and we're gonna talk to a couple of -- local working moms who are the real authorities. And then our third hour not to be missed is something that fascinates me it's called. Duck squad duck squad a movement by doctors locally and nationally. Who -- looking at our system been saying this isn't what we went to med school to do. So I think -- going to be very very interested in. But we begin with the metropolitan crime commission released its annual report recently. An even though it found issues with the shrinking police department and fewer arrest. The report shines a light on the ongoing improved relationship. The link between the police department and the district attorney's office something that did not exist for decades. But with the election of Leon -- 05 and a half years ago and the naming of Ronald surpasses police chief. Things have changed and the better relationship. Is credited with being part of the success for a 45%. Conviction rate for felony arrest. Joining us to talk about this and other changes in the office of the district attorney is DEA Leon canister. And again and feel free to get physical with any questions human hand that's 260187260187. Read the report personal and. For being here thank you for having me thank you very much 45% conviction rate which is almost double what it was six years ago that is impressive. And Angelou was certainly very very proud of that. We know that that we have all the way to go yet we're still not where we would like to be. But I think the significance of the report and I think you alluded to this in some of the introductory remarks -- that. We are working together with the police department around -- has certainly been a breath of fresh year to the police department from our perspective. You know I have an opportunity to meet with him on a very frequent basis and we talk about issues where where -- not necessarily going to his office in my office but we get away from the offices where we can. Sort of sit down and discuss some of the concerns. And issues that are present between our two offices. And I think as a result of that because the heads of the agencies are communicating and are talking we are usually able to work out. The majority of the problems -- difficulties that we see that may arise. With our agencies and you know one of the things I think people have to keep in mind especially with the crimes of violence certainly our our main focus is about public safety. Everything we do is designed to make the city of new world to better and a safer place we understand that if that occurs. And it helps economic development helps businesses helps us all in this city and that that's essentially what it is about. And so to that and you know we go and meet with the police officers. On a very frequent basis offices are in our office they come to the DA's office for instance today at 2 o'clock we will be meeting with those officers who have made. Of violence sex offenses within the last week or two and they'll come to the office and they will talk with us about those cases they will spend the afternoon. Talking with us working with us trying to get those cases in the best posture that we can't and wanted to take them to court. Will do the same thing tomorrow with regard to homicide cases we will talk about the murders that have taken place in the city of new loans in the last thirty days -- so. We might even have police reports on these violent offenses as of yet but we're going to sit down and talked with the offices they're gonna give us some of their preliminary. A report some of their thoughts and it's all about again trying to make a better case would do the same thing on Wednesday with regard to armed robbery and gun charges. And and and as a result of that I think you're seeing that because of this cooperate. And because of this working relationship a relationship I can tell you that I have never seen before between our two offices. I think we're starting to see a significant improvement and progress in the course this is translating into more cases being accepted. More cases where individuals are being convicted. And as a result of that longer jail sentences especially for those who are committing acts of violence. In times past would would be. A police officer would just give you the report and he was out of the -- showed up in court that's a very good point that's exactly what happened you'd basically bring a police report to the to the district attorney's office. Someone in the screen division would review that report he would sit down he he he may call the officer he may attempt to get in touch with the witnesses. But by and large you saw that the majority of the cases or at least not not the majority I shouldn't say that but by and -- -- so about half the cases. We're really not even accepted by the by the office they simply. Which would look at the cases and say this was not something that we thought merited prosecution. And the case would be refused. And when we ran for this office and one of the things that I talked to a number of people about was a -- it's the the police department just can't be that bad they can't be that wrong 50% of the time. A when -- out there making -- with regard to felony cases. And so it it was a concerted effort on the people who are the top administrators my first assistant my chief of the screening division my chief of the homicide division. We sat down and we said look we can do this -- week but the but the thing we have got to do is we've got to demonstrate to the police were willing to work with you we are not interested in just taking a report in saying that's the end of it. There may be something else that we need to have. In order to make this case successful in order for it to be a good case in court that will result in a conviction. And as a result of that cooperative effort we have the police calling us now on a much more frequent basis talking about evidence and talking about cases. Essentially it is about trying to get the police department -- to sort of by -- Tuesday the concept. That a case is not solved. Or case should not be closed at the point of a rest. But rather that is just the beginning of the case the case should be solved or closed when the defendant is in fact convicted of short. And that's essentially that has been a mindset that to a large extent in the police department had not existed. And we again are are attempting to change that any -- you if you think about it it really makes a lot of sense from a police offers perspective. If I if I make in a rest today I write a report. And I give it to look to the district attorney's office -- some -- down the road that's essentially the end of my participation is -- again and to -- said maybe I get called the coming court and testify. Well that's simply the beginning of the case for us with that a rest. And an order for us to be successful if we're truly going to go about trying to make the city of new loans -- safer in a better place. Then you've got to work that -- to the point where results in the conviction. I would imagine that. Those conversations and relationships with officers and your office. Now perhaps police officers when they are looking at cases are thinking in terms. A question you wall -- I'd like to think so and I mean we like I said you know. It's rarely a day goes by where where my office is situated I'll see many times some of the detectives in the homicide. Some of the detectives in the sex crimes some of the people who were involved in some of the major offenses that take place in new -- they'll walk. Right past my office going into meet without. People and our in our meeting rooms in the with the first assistant and there are there essentially to talk about the cases what do we have to do. In order to make this -- as good a case is possible on on occasion and rarely they will call us and talk to us about. They're asked asked for. I -- consulting whether they should make an arrest on someone based appoint. The information they have out on the streets that's that's a rare example normally the police are responsible for the rest. But after that arrest dismayed they know the case is going to come to us and and again they are working to try to get the case in the best very best posture that we can't. In order to bring it to court. Stay with us everyone will continue our conversation with district attorney Leon Ken -- I'm Angela on WWL are very special guest DNA Leon -- zero were talking about. Many things but the recent metropolitan crime commission report that. That clearly showed. A big improvement in the conviction rate felony conviction rate and also the big improvement. With the relationship between the DA's office and the police department and Emma Leon -- -- is saying is that it is working and that that is helping. Let me just ask you not understand that about a third. Of the suspects that are brought in for murder you do reject some cases correct and that's correct what is the criteria. That you would say no we're not gonna take this case well as sense. It boils down to our ability to be able to going to court and convict that person do I have enough proof to I have enough information to -- enough evidence. Which convinces me and would be able to convince a jury or a judge that this person is guilty of this offense beyond a reasonable doubt. I do I have the right person. And -- does do the facts substantiate our ups and prove that he is responsible for killing this human being that's essentially what it boils down to. You'll find many times and we know this in the city of new loans unfortunately is that people who might be willing to go when -- police officer something. When the event is fresh in their mind. Are not willing to stay with us through the long haul of this prosecution. Keep in mind always that time is an enemy to the prosecution the longer the case lingers the longer it sits around. The less activity there is on a case the weaker becomes for us it's important for us to try to get these cases. Indicted and get them to trial as quickly as we can't because witnesses will grow reluctant they will unfortunately in many cases be intimidated. They will be frightened to not come into court and testify. We have had cases where there have been some very serious threats one on one witnesses some people have lost their lives. In there you know cases in point we have advised people that they should take certain precautions they opted not to do that. And they paid the ultimate price for that. So it essentially it is about the case do we have enough evidence to go into court. And it's about again working and in some cases you don't need necessarily an eyewitness with some of the scientific test testimony and evidence that is available you might not need an eyewitness in some cases to prove a murder. But certainly that would help if you if you have the eyewitnesses it's gonna depend on if the defendant has made any statements. And it did against some of the police are a very hard nosed and determined they're gonna continue to work case tonight when he give up on their cases and certainly we appreciate that effort that's important but it's almost now been passed in maddening when you know. When you know that someone is always for whatever reason again. It's it's very disturbing but Angela I want you know what we have to keep people aware of is if we have some other charge in this has happened. We have sometimes head cases where. May we may -- we weren't successful with a homicide case are. We didn't believe we had enough evidence to charge the person with a homicide case but the person had some other charges might be. A narcotics violation in the person had a record for that north prior criminal history. Sometimes we would pursue him on that narcotics violation get a conviction and then use what we call the repeat offender. Statute or the multiple offender bill of information to enhance his penalty and in some cases we would see people. Who although we didn't have a -- murder. We might have had a more narcotics case and they would end up doing a ten or twenty year sentence. I have always said that sometimes if I can keep an individual who I believe is a violent offender off the streets. For however shorter period of time they might that might be. I'm going to do it because it it may well be saving and life and so that's that's really what the public safe. The angle of this is all about. We are all aware of the growing shortage of police officers. Even though -- clock for those recent reports under mining guys sitting at desks and working on cars that he feels could be put on the street. If we can hire civilians but those. The network that aside are you feeling. The impact of not enough police well. Certainly you know from our perspective I guess what we look at this and -- am not trying to be critical but rather than necessarily having more police we want better police that's what I want I want the police department did. Be as effective as they possibly can't. What I have said is that the police essentially responsible for three things that I see in in when a case -- crime occurs. It's important that they go out and do a very thorough and a complete investigation of that case. It is an extremely important that they put that investigation into the formal report. That we can receive and we -- we reviewed that report and that report is sort of the basis upon which we. Go often to other areas whereby we get additional evidence we get additional witnesses. And the third thing that is important from the perspective from my perspective -- report to police officer is that if it's necessary for him or hurt to going to court. That they be able to go into court and sort of be able to testify effectively. So you know we if we can get the offices to do those things. Than we're satisfied with the effort that that that they are giving to us and that's certainly a enhances and helps our ability in criminal justice. To be effective. Certainly I know the superintendent would like love to have a larger number of a police officers on the force and certainly I think that would help. But again you know if if we if we don't have -- and we have to all understanding criminal justice many times were called upon to do more with less. And so even though we're not going to have the resources in order to maybe bring in the extra assistant DA is that I might want some of the extra investigators in my office. We still have to go out and do the job to the best of our ability with the resource is that we have available. And I think that's that's certainly a a key component. We have a caller let's go to Tony uptown. McCaw today question from the integral to BA. Wanted to find out why did get a different agencies like in the Orleans parish are -- call to the people and think emanate I don't ever really good conviction rate. And gaps and a larger you know I know several -- up an adjustment to our the network of the investigation bureau and I -- a lot of naked -- -- look at 98% conviction rate I'll give -- an example. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- And I'll -- public image within a billion a little bit about it or other in the history. The traffic division or -- schema orbit what is state -- highway. And I went home actually like a copy of the report actually got all collapse that that's got to be -- -- you believe that god com port. About 15400. I can imagine you know I mean god gonna get good counts and Annika she gets on the -- and graduated the police again and economic -- -- that -- -- and I'll probably seen during the -- -- -- all have the correct me if -- Bulletin at government but. He got them good police opened -- up -- what are also about -- bump and run. Good report. An apple -- that line can get these people and wanna come here and he's not getting you know and that's something that the superintendent need to look at -- right he's gonna report. And have a competent police would go up in investigative. Didn't indicate that would be. Tony thanks a lot for the call we're gonna let him isn't it true that the national conviction rate is -- -- like 5556%. That is currently at 45%. Were aiming in the right correct that's correct and and and so I think it's it's as you mentioned at the top of the show -- important to note that I believe the numbers when we started. About 65 and a half years ago were somewhere in the twenties like 25 to 27%. So we have we have significantly improved. The quality of the prosecution. In the last five and a half years. -- the only issue I would take with what Tony says is that -- I do not know that there have been studies of this sort done with regard to what takes place in Jefferson Parish and saint Tammany parish that. The metropolitan crime commission has primarily concentrated on Orleans parish in and that's fine. You know. Certainly we lose on and I I know why I IT's Paul Connick who is -- district attorney in Jefferson Parish a lot of doubt this that you know we lose a lot of our experienced -- we get a young lawyer. We trained them they're sort of in the battleground every day in criminal district court. And when they get some experience many times if there is an opening in Jefferson Parish there is an opening at saint Tammany parish they will go. To those locations so they're basically taking. Some of our experienced prosecutors and we basically have a young group of men and women. And I don't I don't apologize that I am I'm extremely proud of the men and women who work in our office they come there every day. They're overworked underpaid. And they have they are providing a service to this community and despite the fact that there is a -- of our world of our. Experienced talent in Orleans parish were still able to accomplish with the objectives and that is go after the violent criminal and go after him. Effectively. Stay with us everywhere and we have to break for the news the way back -- gonna continue this important talk with G-8 Leon canister. Well we're back talking with not district attorney Leon Canas -- and done. An -- in the the -- we need to hear is things are getting better. Relationships are better with the police department that's making a difference in your conviction rate yes and and that's about that's what people want to know. That things are getting better. I wanna bring up the case that is in the last month or so that was had been a very difficult. The decision for you concerning Mary Landry. That the young man who shot the fourteen your world and it just brought up many questions in in our community. What was your -- thought process on ultimately dropping. Well. Initially. Angela we had that case had been in our office for about. Almost 89 months. Before we made a decision with regard to that. The cases every one knows had been in front of the Orleans parish grand jury and -- had we had. Taken several sessions and and brought it not just for one session but. For several meetings of that same grand jury so we have been working on that. For a period of time up and for reason for part of the delays were some of the witnesses in this case because. Marshall Coulter who was the victim of that of the person who was shot in this in this particular instance had been in the hospital. We get to talk to the doctors to try to get -- appeal for his condition. We brought in experts of ballistics expert a blood spatter expert. Individual should come in from all the places to have studied the case review -- present their findings to the grand jury. So it was a case it took us a great deal with time the issue was simply whether or not. Mary Landry used excessive force -- in in in that the shooting event that took place. The as the the bottom line so to speak the reason that really. Led to the don't read refusal of the failure to institute the prosecution. Was essentially. Issues that related to the credibility of our case. Merit landry's position with this individual was in his in his backyard there was no question about that. There was also question as to whether or not he attempted to gain entry into his residents. And the law is very clear with regard to we call justification. There is a presumption. In favor of in this case the homeowner if a homeowner uses force there is a presumption in his favor that the. Force is reasonable. The F from the facts you find that in individual is in fact. Entering his house or attempting to gain a forcible entry into his house and when I say there were some problems with the credibility of our case. More -- -- hand in a rested. Twice. For. One's being in an individual's home and an individual -- in his home it was a simple burglary. And then -- second Casey was arrested for an attempt to enter into someone's home so you had to. Burglary arrest. Of more shall Coulter after the Mary -- incident. And there was even in the event that had taken place before which we were unaware of that where. It was alleged that Marshall Coulter had broken into someone's home. That he had gotten into a struggle with that individual homeowner over gone. Got away. And it was a warrant issued for his arrest in this occurred prior to the shoot. The problem with that was the police did not quit that Warren into the computer and we were unaware -- until after. Coulter had been arrested for the two subsequent burglaries. And the police essentially said look I didn't put that morning it was very honest I didn't put that -- in the computer because we were under the impression. That Coulter was in a vegetative state he was no longer ambulatory he could not get a -- That was absolutely not correct and and in all honesty we believe that -- that was that was information which was given to us. That he could not move around that he was essentially confined to to speaking in terms of one syllable and and so we had to some extent some some bad information and we even sent our people out to go and visit with him we went to his home we spoke with his mother we have an opportunity to observe him in his home. And it wasn't. And we had done this within a matter of sixty days. Before these burglary -- so we had been very much involved in the case. And essentially when he gets arrested for the two new charges. And there had been an arrest story it had been a warrant out for him for a previous -- all involving the same sort of conduct. Which Mary -- was alleging. Hit it and it. Again the credibility of our case was greatly missed greatly. Destroyed in my opinion. And as a result of that we could not going to court and prove our case beyond a reasonable doubt. I think that has just brought up a lot of conversation about what how safe can we feel in our homes and what. What is the process we can do and and thank you for explaining what you went through to get to that point shifting over a little bit too. A subject not not with here. The ten year but in former -- DA's the prosecutor. Prosecutorial. Misconduct. And in reading a shovel reports if it's pretty shocking I think to the average GO. That so many men have been sent to prison. -- And have spent time there and some have gotten out just your thoughts on what you can do to protect that ever happening. Well. You know I assume you're alluding to the red general Adam's case something that we dealt with in the very just very recently -- and I'm gonna have to interrupt you I'm so sorry we're gonna have to go to break but I want everyone to stay with -- This is important. DA Leon -- Sarah will be right back. We're talking with GA Leon -- -- were talking about. Actually a report out by the innocence project where and this isn't in years past in the seventies and eighties. Women were sent Angola some for life. Some on death row that have since gotten out because of evidence that has now been. Turned over and you were talking about the most recent one. Which was right John Adams right that was a case where someone had been in jail for over thirty years if convicted of murder. And in when we when the innocence project brought that to Lawson brought some of the concerns we looked at it. And we evaluating week we looked at a rather quickly because we came to the conclusion that this was someone that. You know and I -- I can't say whether he was innocent or not but I can certainly say based upon the evidence that I observed this man was not guilty of the charge. And that he should have never been convicted. Based upon what was presented in -- in the court and based upon what I was able to -- look at in the record. And so we tried to act as quickly as we could. To get this person out of jail -- -- it would not be a possibility of busts ever being able to try the case again. In light of the information that was brought to our our retention and -- is essentially there was a there was just misstatements in the police report about evidence that was recovered. That there were misstatements on the witness stand about. The investigation. And the people who were interviewed during the course of the investigation and some of the scientific tests that were done. But with regard to the murder weapon a murder weapon which is. Clearly indicated to have been recovered based upon the police report -- murder weapon which was tested in the crime lab but yet when the detectives took the stand. They said there was no murder weapon. Recovered in connection with the case the murder weapon was taken from someone else not mr. Adams not connecting with mr. Adams that was just one of the more glaring. Teachers should he can he be responsible for that. Well you know ultimately yes somebody should apps would be responsible I I it's that's that's a that's always the question it's been a. Which it week due to the guys who. Who broke the law at the time. And and you know what I have said was initially I mean certainly if if there will lawyers involved certainly they would be subjected to disciplinary. Action by the bar association. As -- criminal prosecutions. That's the statute of limitations has certainly run because you can say that. That the district attorney was aware of this someone in that office was aware of what was going on. And -- for statutes of limitations they start to run when the prosecutor is aware of of the wrongdoing. It's it's important to note that one of the prosecutors who was involved in the cases in fact deceased. Now one of the one of the police officers who was involved in the cases is is serving a jail sentence in in the in the department of corrections at the present time. But I think that the message in what we have tri -- what we have tried to convey to the men and women who work in our offices. It doesn't do us any good to get a conviction if we get it improperly if we get it illegally. The emphasis should be a point getting legal and constitutional. Convictions. Convictions which are going to Spain and forever they're going to whether as a test of time. And as you see no matter how happy you may be back in nineteen I 8083. Or 84 when they obtain this conviction. It comes back to haunt you because she didn't play by the rules she didn't follow the constitution didn't follow the laws. And you know what one of the things we have we have emphasized and continue to emphasize to the men and women of this office if you have information. That helps a defense you give it to him. Give it to -- give it to -- now you know the first thing when I took office. And then that that this is why this is so important in my mind you -- of the John Thompson case was a case that had made its way through the federal courts. And the district attorney's office was on the verge of having to pay and fifteen plus million dollar judgment because of prosecutorial misconduct. And that occupies some of the early months and actually years of our arts are tenure as the as the DA. Until the United States Supreme Court found that and is under a civil theory we would we would not be response when he was not entitled to a recovery. But then again that's a very very close vote that's a five to four vote in the United States Supreme Court. So what we've learned from that once -- it's not worth it in the end again we have we have continue to preach shin and emphasize to the men and women in the office. To do these things right it's about your reputation it's not only does not only about this office but it's about your reputation something that will stay with you. For the rest of illegal career. And that that is wonderful to hear it is wonderful to hear because it is disturbing that anybody would spend five minutes in jail much less thirty years. After something that perhaps -- not ten. Very quickly we have had many shows on we are looking -- are are on incarceration rate which is -- the roof in the state. Trying to say not violent offenders nonviolent offenders perhaps there should be another way for for penalizing them. Where they are not for the rest of their life caring that they were imprisoned and they can go forward in their life and I know that you have a program. Sort of the diversion program. Yes and is that working. There yes and as a NAFTA say that's something that that's another thing we're very proud of by I I tried to bring. What I used in the criminal district court from my experience as a judge. We called the drug quarter intensive probation program I tried to carry that over or transfer that to the district attorney's office. In the court as a judge I would deal with individuals after they had obtained a conviction after they were convicted in that in the DA's office as the economy and they have not been convicted -- dealing with individuals who have been arrested. Nonviolent. First offenders in in many cases second offenders we simply offer them the alternative an opportunity. To not have to go when court to not have to obtain a conviction what we simply say is we're gonna play shoe in that in under the supervision of a counselor. A case manager a social worker and this person will supervise you anywhere from nine months up to two years and during that period of time. We hope what is our goal is -- on a few successfully complete this program we'd like for you to first I'll stay out of trouble don't get arrested -- charged with any other crime. Secondly obtain a GE. Who don't have an education is a very very close connection there. Thirdly we try to talk to them about maintaining employment if people are occupied if they are working there is a very good chance they're not going to be involved in criminal activity. And finally we wanna keep them drug free because so many people come into the system we have drug problems in if we can get them the substance abuse counseling. And get them to successfully complete that program. There's a good chance they don't come back into the system. We've had an extremely good success rate are recidivism rate is less than 7%. So the program is working and as you said Angela the the individual who successfully completes our diversion program is not. Saddled with that stigma of a conviction which he is a hindrance to him down the road. For educational and employment opportunities so what is working stay with this -- -- under the -- --