On March 9, The New Orleans Advocate published N.O. Council member Susan Guidry’s letter to the editor that accuses District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro of “prosecuting children as adults in shockingly large numbers.” I am a former Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer and Charity Hospital nurse, and I am presently involved with several areas of New Orleans’s Criminal Justice System. Accordingly, I was surprised and concerned to see how inadequate and lacking her knowledge of the system and the law regarding this issue is. She drafted a resolution that the district attorney “… simply screen the youth he seeks to transfer and to report to the City Council on data regarding those transfers.” She then held a four-hour meeting to support her resolution.
Cannizzaro asked Guidry to provide a list of cases he handled improperly. Guidry offered no cases to the district attorney’s request, and her response to the district attorney was evasive and weak. Apparently, Guidry’s research discovered that there is not an alarming number of cases and that these are not improperly handled — or she would have happily presented the results. Any juvenile case upgraded to adult status becomes public record the children’s law only protects and keeps confidential the cases that remain in the juvenile system. Furthermore, she wrote, “state law demands cases that deal with murder and rape be automatically transferred.” She is dangerously incorrect on this, as she is with many other points of the law. Her total lack of knowledge of the law and her substandard research demonstrates that her accusations against the district attorney and his staff of not properly vetting the juvenile transfers is completely incorrect and unwarranted.
We all want the children involved in the juvenile system, who have the ability to be rehabilitated through family-services programs, to have this opportunity to rebuild their lives as productive citizens. However, it is the job and duty of our district attorney to provide for the public safety and to prosecute violent offenders and criminals who put our lives and well-being in jeopardy. After many hours and years of observing violent felony cases in both criminal and juvenile courts, I know Cannizzaro is diligently making careful, individualized, case-by-case decisions that provide justice to those who have been victimized, while protecting the rights of the accused.
Until Guidry understands and accepts the system and the laws that govern it, and until she is able to offer constructive criticism supported by documented facts, she must allow Cannizzaro to perform his duty to protect the public by applying his knowledge and expertise of the law to the criminal justice system.
homemaker, registered nurse