James Gill has a terrific new column about three capital cases prosecuted under Harry Connick, who was Orleans parish District Attorney from 1973-2003.
Gill’s piece,“Connick-era Cases Still in Play,” notes that 1995 was the year Connick’s prosecutors put away Shareef Cousin, later exonerated, Juan Smith, whose prosecutorial misconduct case against Connick’s office made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Rogers Lacaze, a death row prisoner who continues to fight his conviction on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct, including a Brady claim, among other issues, and maintain his innocence. Lacaze has a hearing later this month.
According to this article, 36 men convicted in Orleans parish under Connick have made allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and 19 have had their sentences overturned or reduced as a result of misconduct by the Orleans parish D.A.’s office under Connick.
Gill not only notes that “the signal achievement of the Connick administration was to make ‘prosecutorial misconduct’ a household term,” he also holds current Orleans parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro accountable for his ongoing efforts to defend the office’s past errors:
“Current DA Leon Cannizzaro’s assistants insist Lacaze is guilty and got a fair trial. But they said the same when Smith appealed, and that pretty much had the U.S. Supreme Court in stitches. Prosecutors in 1995 had played so fast and loose with the evidence that even the most illiberal justices couldn’t understand why Cannizzaro hadn’t just thrown in the towel. He is not about to this time either.”
Gill was a longtime columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, who, like others , recently left that paper for the Baton Rouge Advocate’s New Orleans bureau.
We will be posting more about the Lacaze case on the Open File when the new hearing begins later this month.