Proposed Louisiana bill would make criminal and juvenile case info more accessible in three parishes
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Standing side-by-side, dozens of people from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport gathered Wednesday (March 29) at Drago’s in Metairie. All of them were united together - representing a loved one who was shot or killed by gun violence.
Among them was Sherilyn Price, whose son, comedian Brandon “Boogie B” Montrell, was in his car at a grocery store in New Orleans’ Central Business District when he was innocently killed in a shootout.
She has been outspoken ever since.
“Trust me, you don’t want to live my life,” she said. “You want to drink your coffee without tears, because I haven’t been able to do that in 95 days.”
Price, the other families, and crime advocates showed support for a new state measure that will be introduced in this legislative session by State Representative Debbie Villio. It calls for the creation of a pilot program in Orleans, East Baton Rouge, and Caddo Parishes - some of the most violent parishes in the state.
The program would provide no-cost, easy online access to criminal court records and cases, giving the public and victims’ families a clearer view of the criminal justice system.
“This is just good policy that benefits everyone. It is making information that is quite frankly already public. It’s making it more accessible to the people that can’t easily access it now,” Villio said.
Villio’s bill would require Orleans Parish to create a public-facing criminal court records portal instead of using Docket Master, which provides text entries that are difficult for people unfamiliar with the system to comprehend. Clerks in all three parishes would also have to provide the Louisiana Department of Justice with a secure connection to criminal court records and databases.
It also calls for the DOJ to create a case notification system that would notify victims via email or text of upcoming court proceedings in their loved one’s cases.
“It is a step and it proves what we can do when we come together and decide that we want to do it,” Price said.
The program would also apply to juvenile court, so long as the accused teen is 13 years or older, accused of a violent crime, or has at least one prior felony-grade adjudication.
Advocates say it would keep judges and other juvenile court officials accountable.
“What charges are accepted, what charges are refused, what the cases pled to and what kind of sentence the judge gives. All this will be transparent with this legislation when a juvenile is accused of a crime of violence,” attorney Laura Rodrigue said.
That’s something Cortez Collins has been pushing for ever since two juveniles and an adult were arrested in connection to the murder of his son, Corterion, near Shreveport.
“I didn’t know certain things about my son’s case. I just got a call from the DA’s office saying, ‘He’s a juvenile so we are pleading him down to manslaughter.’ It didn’t give me an opportunity to really say how I felt.,” Collins said.
Villio is confident the measure will pass while families say this is just a step in the right direction to solving the state’s gun violence issue.
“This isn’t a political issue. People aren’t being attacked on the basis of how they vote. People are not being attacked on the basis of religion. This is not a racial issue. We are all at risk. We all have some skin in this game,” Price said.
If the measure becomes law, it will operate until 2025 and it will be up to the legislature to extend it. Records that have confidential victim information or that are properly sealed by a court will not be revealed to the public.
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