Contact: Ken Daley, Public Information
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro on Wednesday (Dec. 11) commended officials from the New Orleans Family Justice Center and the United Way of Southeast Louisiana for retracting unwarranted criticism and reaffirming their commitment to a partnership aimed at better serving the needs of the city’s domestic violence victims.
“The plight of New Orleans’ domestic violence victims should never be exploited for political gain in the manner we saw attempted last week by the City Council leadership,” Cannizzaro said. “Fortunately, these advocates were more interested than local politicians in learning about the processes and challenges of prosecuting domestic violence cases in both the Criminal District and Municipal courts.”
Last Friday, OPDA staff hosted a three-hour meeting with Family Justice Center executive director Mary Claire Landry and Kim Sport, public policy chair of the United Way of Southeast Louisiana. The advocates learned how domestic violence cases are handled by prosecutors in Orleans Parish, from the individualized screening each case receives through its institution and eventual disposition.
“By learning about the procedures they were coaxed into criticizing last week, these advocates saw that our commitment to seeking justice for domestic violence victims has never wavered,” Cannizzaro said. “Despite the misleading presentation staged last week and our chronic underfunding by the Council, the advocates agree that we follow
recognized best practices and perform well within national norms for these traditionally difficult cases.”
After reviewing the raw data supplied at last week’s Council committee meeting, Landry and Sport acknowledged Tuesday in a separate press release from United Way SELA that the dismissal rate of misdemeanor domestic violence cases in New Orleans (approximately 80 percent) is no higher than the national average. Additionally, 10-15 percent of the Municipal Court case dismissals criticized by the Council leaders were actually cases that had been transferred to Criminal District Court.
After last week inviting any domestic violence victim who believed their case was not adequately evaluated to contact the OPDA office, Cannizzaro also noted not a single victim has asked for reappraisal of a case.
“We take these and all our criminal cases very seriously, and evaluate each one for potential prosecution based on its individual merits,” Cannizzaro said. “We are transparent in our procedures, and could have explained them fully to uninformed Council leaders, had we been invited to participate in a legitimate discussion. But arriving at real solutions was never the goal of what can only be described as a political stunt.
“Domestic violence prosecutions rely almost entirely upon the willingness of the victim to cooperate and appear throughout the prosecutorial process. That is reality, and it is not ‘victim-blaming’ to state that fact. If our politicians would do their part and allocate funding commensurate to their on-camera concerns, the system could improve. But until that happens, we welcome the advocates’ support of our endeavors to find alternatives to prosecution that might keep families safely together, when possible. And to enhancing services for victims when it is not.”
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