February 8, 2019

Jason Rogers Williams

Council President Releases Statement on Practices of District Attorney Cannizzaro

Council President Releases Statement on Practices of District Attorney Cannizzaro
NEW ORLEANS - Today the City Council unanimously passed a resolution, sponsored by Council President Jason Williams, Council Vice President Helena Moreno and District "C" Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer, condemning District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's barbaric practice of jailing victims of domestic and sexual violence on material witness warrants. Today's resolution furthered the efforts of a resolution sponsored by Councilmember Jason Williams in 2017. The vote was accompanied by a presentation from Court Watch NOLA who also supported the resolution in 2017. The Council committed to working collaboratively with the state legislature to address this issue and examine measures to better assist victims in navigating the prosecutorial process.

Council President Williams says, "Orleans Parish thought they elected a Democrat named Leon to be the DA. That is not what it got. What we have instead is an embrace of President Trump's 'dog whistle phrases.' New Orleans needs and deserves studied, thoughtful policies based on facts, data, and science.
While District Attorneys in other major American cities have realized the immense power at their disposal and have begun the work of using that power to repair trust in communities, our DA seems hell-bent on inciting further distrust with his fear-mongering rhetoric and regressive policies.

The idea that a prosecutor would jail victims of domestic and sexual violence is misogynistic, barbaric, and despicable. It is, frankly, embarrassing to have this issue play out on the national stage. These backward policies have received rebukes on both sides of the aisle, from Republicans and Democrats alike, as well as investors from the private sector, and yet this DA chooses to defend this clearly sexist dogma. This is altogether unconscionable.

The chilling effects that such actions have on current and future victims is dangerous. We know that these crimes are under-reported because of the life-altering trauma to victims and their typically close relationship to the assailant. Indeed, according to the Bureau of Justice statistics, only 1 in 5 rapes and sexual assaults were reported to the police in 2016. When someone who has already been robbed of their sense of normalcy is then punished for the violent crime committed against them, the District Attorney further aggravates that trauma leaving the victim unsure whether they have even a single advocate looking out for their interests. These facts speak volumes, which is why he chooses to ignore them. He admitted in City Council Chambers during budget hearings that his policies in certain instances lead to the victims spending more time in jail than the perpetrators. 

This past Tuesday, the DA doubled down with a daytime speech at the Sheraton that seemed to eerily bookend Donald Trump's State of the Union address steeped in the same fear-mongering tactics. Cannizzaro relied on dog whistles that echo Donald Trump's platform. Build a wall. Build a bigger jail. To hell with facts, to hell with science, to hell with data, believe in Cannizzaro and Trump because they can protect you from all of the boogie monsters and Willie Horton's of the world. 

Our DA is either disingenuous or willfully ignorant about how much harm is caused to the mission of a safer city by trying to shoehorn outdated methodologies in a system working to recover from centuries-long biased policies.

We have to choose our future. I believe that the people of New Orleans want us to follow the lead of Governor Jon Bel Edwards and progressive District Attorneys in other cities, not return to the way it was pre-Katrina when we had higher crime rates but over six thousand people in pre-trial jail. 

The tactics of our current DA insult the intelligence of the people who now have access to data and real-time crime information. We no longer have to rely on framing from someone interested in maintaining the status quo. This city has been through too much to allow ourselves to be scared into making irresponsible policies and expenditures."

Media Contact:
Katie Hunter-Lowrey
Director of Communications
Councilmember-At-Large Jason Rogers Williams
(504) 345-4076
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