Jerome Morgan at DA protest

Jerome Morgan, whose conviction on a murder charge was vacated in 2014 over the objections of District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office, speaks at a rally on Tuesday. (Matt Sledge)

"What's a rally without a folk singer?"

Musician Ani DiFranco, a New Orleans resident, spoke those words before leading a crowd of several dozen in song on the front steps of the Orleans Criminal District courthouse as they rallied against District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro on Tuesday.

The rally, which was organized by a group of Bernie Sanders supporters called Our Revolution NOLA, centered on the use of tactics like material witness warrants and so-called "fake subpoenas." Controversy over those tactics has bubbled up in recent weeks, culminating in a May 4 City Council resolution that blasted the DA.

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Cannizzarro has defended the use of material witness warrants, which allow prosecutors to arrest skittish witnesses ahead of trial, as a necessary tactic in the fight on crime. However, his office has ditched the separate letters sent to witnesses that looked like subpoenas, but did not have court approval.

Michelle Hanks, an organizer with Our Revolution NOLA, said she wanted to see individual prosecutors who sent "fake subpoenas" disciplined.

"The unethical and fraudulent patterns of overzealous prosecutions must end," Hanks said. "They should receive discipline and no less than a public reprimand."

Another among the speakers was Jerome Morgan, who was convicted as a teenager of shooting another teen in a Gentilly ballroom. His conviction was vacated in 2014 after two key witnesses recanted, over the objections of Cannizzarro's office.

Morgan said he thought the rally was a long time coming.

"Let's get together with each other and organize so we can get Cannizzaro out of office," Morgan said.

The DA is next up for election in 2020. Chris Bowman, a spokesman for his office, responded to the protest by referencing two shootings that happened on Tuesday shortly after 5 p.m.

"It appears as though while that protest was going on, two people were shot in the city, one of whom was killed. The DA is far more concerned about the violent crime that is spiraling out of control than that small protest," Bowman said.

Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge. | (504) 636-7432