Most of the time, we look to criminals and failures in our ability to uphold the law as the reason the justice system is broken. Most of the time, we’re opposed to the actions of the ACLU as they often attempt to free the wicked while shaming the righteous. Leon Cannizzaro, a District Attorney in New Orleans, has forced us to side with the ACLU and to look at those attempting to uphold the law as actually being opposed to it.
Fighting crime is hard enough without “crime fighters” like Cannizzaro and others in his office. They’re making the job harder in their area with repercussions that could spread across the nation. Instead of upholding the law, they allegedly broke it. Instead of going after criminals, they targeted victims.
Cannizzaro’s office is accused of using fake subpoenas and other strong-arm tactics to coerce people into testifying. Oftentimes, the people they used these tactics on were the victims of the crimes the DA’s office was attempting to prosecute. A lawsuit by the ACLU on behalf of six of the alleged victims tells a grim tale.
“One rape victim spent 12 days in jail before her first court appearance,” the suit says. “A victim of child sex trafficking was jailed for 89 days—including Christmas and New Year’s Day—before she had an opportunity to challenge her confinement.”
Here’s the full background when the story first broke in April:
Orleans Parish prosecutors are using fake subpoenas to pressure witnesses to talk to them | The Lens
The notice Tiffany Lacroix received in November had “SUBPOENA” printed at the top, next to a logo of the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office. It ordered her to meet with a prosecutor to discuss the upcoming trial of Cardell Hayes, charged with murdering former Saints player Will Smith.
“A FINE AND IMPRISONMENT MAY BE IMPOSED FOR FAILURE TO OBEY THIS NOTICE,” it declared.
But it wasn’t authorized by a judge. It wasn’t issued by the Clerk of Court, which sends out subpoenas. And Lacroix wouldn’t have gone to jail if she had ignored it. In other words, it was fake.
Those fighting for justice should use every legal means necessary to make criminals pay for their actions. The keyword is “legal.” What Cannizzaro and his team are accused of doing is immoral while also being potentially unconstitutional and illegal.
Lawsuit and repercussions
The lawsuit is moving forward, according to Reason. This puts the office in a pickle as they now find themselves on the opposite table in the courtroom. While continuing to try to uphold the law, they are now being questioned about potentially breaking it.
Moreover, this puts the entire process into question. Currently, there isn’t usually very much oversight over the activities of prosecutors. They generally do the right thing and follow legal procedures. It’s not that they’re all perfect and blameless. It behooves them and their careers to win cases the right way. The only thing worse than losing a case is winning one and having it overturned because of improper procedures, loopholes, or outright falsifications.
This case will shine a brighter spotlight on prosecutors around the nation. It will make their jobs harder and reduces the already-fading trust many have with law enforcement and the prosecutors who support them.
Here’s the piece from Reason:
New Orleans D.A. Sued for Using Fake Subpoenas to Coerce Witnesses and Crime Victims – Hit & Run : Reason.com
Singelton is one of several named plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed today against Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office for using fake subpoenas to coerce witnesses and crime victims into testifying. The suit was filed by the ACLU and Civil Rights Corps, on behalf of six New Orleans residents subjected to such tactics and Silence is Violence, a local anti-violence advocacy group.
“Defendants’ policies are designed to create a culture of fear and intimidation that chills crime victims and witnesses from asserting their constitutional rights,” the suit says. “As a result of these policies, crime victims and witnesses in Orleans Parish know that if they exercise their right not to speak with an investigating prosecutor, they will face harassment, threats, arrest, and jail.”
There will always be bad apples even in professions on the “right side” like criminal prosecution. If these accusations turn out to be true, even partially, then Leon Cannizzaro and offenders in his office have done much more damage to law and order than any perceived positives they did while coercing innocent people.