Lack of manpower slowing down process of bringing juvenile suspects to justice, Orleans Parish DA’s office says

Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 4:53 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Three juvenile suspects were released from custody late last year and attempts to try a fourth as an adult are in limbo after the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office failed to meet deadlines to formally bring charges.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell expressed her frustration in a press conference on Wednesday (Feb. 8), on the heels of the DA’s office missing a second deadline to try a juvenile carjacking and shooting suspect as an adult.

Kendell Myers is accused of robbing and shooting a UNO student in an uptown carjacking last year. The Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office missed a key deadline last week to move Myles’ case to adult court for the second time.

While Myers remains in custody, the Juvenile Justice Intervention Center says three other juvenile suspects were released between October and December of 2022 without charges being brought in a timely manner.

Under the state’s children’s code 819, if a hearing is not held for a juvenile suspect in a three-day period while they are at a detention center, then they are to be released.

“When you have been identifying issues and breakdowns within the system, it is frustrating that now we are starting to understand the overall impact. And it is unfortunate that it has to take this to happen to make people pay attention,” Mayor Cantrell said.

“We had three 819 releases, which the DA’s office did not file a petition in a timely manner,” interim JJIC Director Dichelle Williams said.

She says social workers on her staff keep tabs on juveniles inside the facility and alert attorneys when key dates are coming up.

“Sometimes we reach out to members of the DA’s office and say, ‘Is this going to be treated as a non-detention? Are you going to bring charges? We are approaching deadlines,’” she said.

FOX 8 reached out to the DA’s office for a reason why those suspects did not have formal charges filed against them in time, but we have not yet heard back.

Members of the DA’s office say a lack of manpower is making their jobs harder.

“If you know anybody who is willing to come and join our fight, who wants to be a district screener, who’s got some experience as a prosecutor in this parish or some other parish, and who wants to come join the fight for the greatest city in the world, send them my way,” said Andre Gaudin with the DA’s office.

District Attorney Jason Williams’ office addressed Myers’ case in a statement, saying the issue was a matter of being careful, not careless, in building the case.

“We worked systematically to build cases that we could win at trial, which included visiting the victim’s bedside and listening to the wishes of the family during the victim’s incapacity. It is imperative that this matter is handled with the appropriate level of care, in a way that is lasting rather than hasty. We owe it to Scott Toups and the memory of his loving wife to do this right and in a way that offers the best odds of prevailing at trial.

“The system is not set up to be able to make a thoughtful and informed decision within the limited time period. However, the law is clear that even if the State doesn’t to meet this time limit, dismissal of the prosecution is not an appropriate remedy. Therefore, the judge who quashed the indictments in these cases did so in error and we are taking this matter to the Court of Appeal and State Supreme Court if necessary.”

More: Case against Bridge City escapee tossed as Orleans DA misses another juvenile transfer deadline

At the meeting, Councilman Eugene Green raised concerns about the number of felony convictions in 2022. The Metropolitan Crime Commission says of more than 3,933 felony arrests, just over 3,000 were taken on by the district attorney’s office and 43%, or around 1,290, resulted in a felony conviction.

The mayor also called for more accountability for law enforcement and judicial officials in the collective battle to curb the city’s crime, including the district attorney.

“That office is elected as well. Just as you hold me accountable, right, just as you highlight issues and the like, I think it’s only fair that when we look at criminal justice and the system operating collaboratively in the spirit to ensure public safety, that all branches are held accountable,” she said.

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