Showing posts with label Louisiana. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Louisiana. Show all posts

Friday, March 31, 2017

Louisiana: The Woe of Prosecutors

Great reporting on clemency in Louisiana by Julia O'Donoghue at Nola.com (link). She reports that Governor John Bel Edwards "has reduced more prison sentences at this point in his term than his three immediate predecessors." But this is said to put "more pressure on district attorneys" in the State because "they must devote more resources and investigators to researching old cases, some closed by former district attorneys 30 to 40 years ago, in order to provide an informed opinion at clemency and parole hearings. " Oh my!

Edwards actually only commuted 22 sentences his first year in office, but that was "far more" than were granted in the first year of the administrations of Mike Foster (who commuted 53 sentences in eight years), Kathleen Blanco (who commuted 129 sentences in four years) and Bobby Jindal (who only commuted 3 sentences in  eight years).

Prosecutors say they "want more time to be able to find surviving victims and gather information about old cases" and they are tired of having to "scramble to get everything together" for clemency hearings. They complain that "pulling information for the cases can be complicated." Victims don't always live in the same places and, in one case, the "original prosecutor and the arresting police officer were both dead."

The piece also says "word has gotten out" among inmates and "there has been an uptick in applications for clemency." See full story here.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Louisiana: Sentencing / Clemency Reform

Gov. Edwards
NOLA.com reports Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected "to make his big push to change criminal sentencing laws and reduce Louisiana's highest-in-the-world incarceration rate during the Legislature's regular session starting April 10."

Edwards commuted 22 prison sentences, "far more than the first-year totals of predecessors Mike Foster, Kathleen Blanco and Bobby Jindal." The totals for previous governors were as follows: Foster (52), Blanco (129) and Jindal (3). It is reported that Edwards' actions "have raised the spirits of lifers at the Louisiana State Penitentiary."

Jindal didn't necessarily turn down offenders' requests so much as he ignored about 700 recommendations from the Pardons and Parole Board for commutations, pardons and other forms of relief  "without any action." So, Edwards' Pardons and Parole Board has implemented a new rule: If Jindal's board recommended clemency and there was no action on the case, an inmate can reapply over the next year (as opposed to waiting 2 to 5 years) to Edwards' board "and be considered quickly." See full story here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Louisiana: It Takes More Than a Board

NOLA.com reports that, in the final week of his administration, Gov. Jindal has decided to grant 20 pardons and 1 commutation of sentence. The grants brought the total for his governorship to 83, in eight years. Quite pitiful. Perhaps, in preparation for his run for the presidency, Jindal pardoned no one in 2015. NOLA.com also reports the aggregate data are "far lower than his predecessors."
Former Gov. Kathleen Blanco granted clemency to 285 offenders in her four years in office, and former Gov. Mike Foster issued pardons to 455 people in his eight years. 
It was not that recommendations were not being made by the State's pardon board. It was more a matter of Jindal routinely ignoring the recommendations of those who knew more about applications than anyone else. Jindal granted a mere 11 percent of the recommendations for clemency that he received. By contrast, Blanco and Foster granted 86 and 65 percent respectively.

Jindal is reported to have "defended" his record on the ground that "Louisiana families and communities" deserve "safety" - a particularly bone-headed "defense" since pardons merely restore the rights of persons who, more often than not, committed minor / non-violent offenses many years (if not decades) ago.

He also offers that recommendations are reviewed "on a case-by-case basis" (Good God, we would hope so!) and the "impact" of pardons on "victims, law enforcement officials, and the communities where these individuals are from" is also considered. We are all left to suppose that the Board recommending pardons has, in Jindal's view, overlooked / ignored all of these things 89 percent of the time. How easy it is to suspect that was not the case. See more on this story here.



Friday, September 11, 2015

Guest Submission: On Huey Long and Carl Weiss

Huey Long
September 8

It was on this date, in 1935, that Dr. Carl Austin Weiss was murdered by Senator Huey Long's bodyguards and - ever since then - has been wrongfully accused of assassinating Senator Huey Long, by the Long Family and the Louisiana State Police. This is what really happened:

On the saddening day of Sunday, September 8,1935, Dr. Weiss and his family attended Mass at St. Joseph's Catholic Church (later St. Joseph's Cathedral) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After Mass, Dr. Weiss and his family went to his parents' home in Baton Rouge. Dr. Weiss and his family returned home later that evening, but he left again because he had to visit a patient he was due to operate on the next day. Dr. Weiss, later telephoned from the patient's home and told his wife he would be home.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Louisiana: Commutation of Sentence

The Advocate reports Governor Jindal has commuted the sentence of 50-year old Shelby Arabie, to 45 years, thus making Arabie eligible for parole. A statement by the Governor says "support and positive character references" demonstrate that Arabie is "fit for commutation."

Arabie shot another man during a drug transaction in 1984. At one point, he escaped from the State Police Barracks and fled to the Florida Keys, where he was recaptured. It is reported that Arabie's prison record improved from that point forward. Says The Advocate:
He became a triple master in auto, truck and collision repair last year with advanced certifications in gasoline and diesel engines. He helped prison officials redesign the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola's re-entry program, which offers pre-release training to short-term prisoners. He assisted in launching a machine shop at Angola. After Hurricane Katrina, he helped repair generators, air conditioners and electrical systems. He aided Amtrak in getting a locomotive running. 
The State's Pardon Board unanimously recommended a commutation of sentence in 2011, but it sat on te governor's desk for years. See story here.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Watch List: Edwin Edwards Meets "Reality"

The New York Times reports former governor of Louisiana, Edwin Edwards, "is requesting an early and immediate end to his supervised release" in order to begin production of "a reality TV series with his third wife." It is also reported that prosecutors "support" the request. The 85-year old Edwards is not considered a threat to the "safety of the public" (threatening the intelligence of the general culture constituting no crime). See full story here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Louisiana: Reforms in Sentencing, Parole

From the Times-Picayune: Amid increasing attention to Louisiana's world-leading incarceration rate, the 2012 Legislature adopted and Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed several measures that alter the state's sentencing and parole laws, primarily for nonviolent offenders whose crimes involved drugs or property. The Louisiana Sentencing Commission recommended nearly all of the changes. They include: 

Merger of separate pardon and parole boards (House Bill 518): Two members will be added to the five-member pardon board, and the seven-person panel, sitting as a "parole committee," will decide whether to release eligible prisoners on parole. The existing parole board will cease to exist.

Discretion on mandatory minimums (House Bill 1068): Prosecutors, defendants and judges are given authority to make pre-trial plea agreements or post-trial sentencing agreements that call for lesser punishment than the minimum required in existing criminal statutes.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

II. O.Henry: Trial and Conviction

In Mid-December 1894, there were signs that there were complications with William Porter's accounts at the First National Bank (Austin). That is also when he "suddenly" resigned from his position as teller. In the background, it was rumored / known that his humor weekly, The Rolling Stone, was struggling financially, and that, on occasion, Porter was prone to gamble.

F.B. Gray, the federal bank examiner, insisted on prosecution over the initial protests of Robert U. Culberson, the U.S. Attorney in Austin, who insisted that, at most, Porter may have made a "series of mistakes" without any criminal intent (O, 46, 47).  Officers of First National, including the Vice President, also let it be known that they did not believe Porter had committed any crime (O,47). So, while Gray did appear before a grand jury, in July of 1895, and dramatically accused William S. Porter of embezzlement from bank funds, the members of the grand jury didn't buy it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Louisiana: Waiting on Jindal

The Times-Picayune has an excellent piece of clemency in Louisiana. It observes that, when the State's five-member Louisiana Pardon Board votes to make someone eligible for parole, they join "a growing subset in Louisiana's criminal justice system" - "several hundred felons -- the vast majority of whom have already served their time and been released -- whose pardon recommendations are waiting on the desk of Gov. Bobby Jindal."

It is reported that, since January 2008, the Pardon Board has sent 450 pardon recommendations to Jindal. "As of early May, he had signed 36 and rejected 36, leaving the rest in limbo. Only one of Jindal's pardons has gone to a person still behind bars."

Previous Gov. Kathleen Blanco, signed 285 of the 331 pardon recommendations that reached her desk during her four-year term. "87 went to prisoners, either shortening their terms or setting them immediately free." Republican Mike Foster, signed 460 pardons during his eight years in office, "with the vast majority coming in his second term when he was a lame duck."

Jindal says that he reviews each pardon request, but stresses the Pardon Board's recommendation is just a recommendation. He articulates his philosophy of pardon as follows: "Nobody that comes before the board or comes to the governor's office is automatically entitled to a pardon." Profound.

But, says the TimesPicayune, "Some wonder what the Pardon Board and its members' $36,000 annual salaries are good for if the governor so rarely takes its recommendations." Indeed.

See lots of other great details in the story here.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Louisiana: House Bill 85

Examiner.com reports that the Louisiana State Pardon Board "could be abolished" if House Bill 85 passes. It would save the state $384,000 a year. Representative Austin Badon (D-New Orleans) says the state is spending too much on the board "to make recommendations to a governor who may not use them." He also takes the position that the governor should not be able to set aside the decisions of judges and juries.

It is also reported that "Louisiana incarcerates more people per capita and spends more on incarceration than any other state." According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, almost 1 in 55 of its citizens is incarcerated. So, the state spends about $500 million a year on prisons, almost 9.5 percent of its general fund dollars. See story here.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Louisiana: Pardon Edwin Edwards?

FOX 8 reports that there is a "push" on the Internet "calling for President Obama to pardon former Governor Edwin Edwards" (see our Pardon Watch List). Says the report, a pardon would be "the first step in the process aiming to allow Edwards to run for Governor again." See story here.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Watch List: Edwards Free at Last!

Double shame on us for missing it, but former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards has finally been released from a half-way house. Indeed, he spoke last month at an awards dinner in Baton Rouge. It is reported that he:
posed for pictures, told off-color jokes and greeted a stream of well-wishers. After a decade away from the scene, he still remembered details about people and their families. If there were hard feelings left from the racketeering conviction that sent him to prison, they were nowhere to be seen as he received two standing ovations.
He also notes that he felt as though he came out of prison "more popular" than when he went in! Why? Because "because people realize that an injustice occurred and that I handled it like a man. I took it. I survived. I said that I would walk out, and I did." Quite Delphic that! See story here.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Watch List: Edwards Released to Half-Way House

CNN is reporting that former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards (D) "was released from federal prison Thursday after serving about 10 years." The 83-year-old Edwards was convicted of "racketeering, conspiracy and extortion," but sought a pardon from George W. Bush. See story here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Louisiana: Dardenne Says "No" (Yawn)

Jay Dardenne (R) is running for Lieutenant Governor of the State of Louisiana. He s currently serving as Secretary of State. In a recent interview with the Capitol Correspondent of HoumaToday.com this exchange occurred:
Q: Who is one of your favorite Louisiana politicians from years gone by?
A: Former Congressman Henson Moore of Baton Rouge, who, from 1975 to 1987, was only the second Republican to represent Louisiana in the U.S. House since Reconstruction.

Q: Would you be in favor of a pardon for former Gov. Edwin Edwards?
A: “No.”
One wonders how many politicians currently running for office support clemency for anyone, anywhere. But why do the media ask such threatening and generally unenlightening questions. If clemency is such a curiosity, why not ask, "Do you think the pardon power is necessary? What are the circumstances under which you think it should be employed?" See full exchange here.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Madison's Pirate Pardon: Celebrating New Orleans' Jean LaFitte

Jean LaFitte was the youngest of three boys who was born near France, in Haiti or in Spain, depending upon who you read. He and his cross eyed brother, Pierre, came to America some time between 1802 and 1804 and may have set up a blacksmith shop in New Orleans while taking up residence on Bourbon Street. By 1910, Jean was the leader of a privateering/smuggling operation that had forty warehouses, a fort, ships, cannons and three to five thousand employees.

The organization generally targeted slave ships, but was agreeable to plundering any vessel that might yield a profit. The booty was brought from Barataria Bay through bayous to New Orleans, where Pierre would take care of storage and inventory. Whether the Baratarians deserved the title “pirates” or mere “smugglers” seems to be an issue among historians. But, either way, there was no small irony in the fact that LaFitte rarely got on ships himself. The man who usually dressed in black and tipped his extravagant hats to admirers, tended to get seasickness.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Louisiana: Automatic Pardon Not Enough of Pardon

Ernal Broussard had some nerve challenging Francis Touchet, Jr. for a position on the Abbeville City Council. So, Touchet pointed out what any opponent might have pointed out: that Broussard was a convicted felon, recently out of prison, who was never pardoned. On the other hand, it is true that, at the end of his sentence, Broussard was given an "automatic" pardon (from someone) because he had committed a non-violent crime. So, that's why we have courts!

A trial court ruled Broussard was disqualified because 1) he had been out of prison less than 15 years and 2) his pardon did not come from the president or governor. A court of appeals reversed, going so far as to question Broussard's conviction! Finally, the Louisiana State Supreme Court agreed with the trial court, and held Broussard ineligible.

See more on this story here and here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Louisiana: Pardon Remembered

Theodore P. Mahne of the The Times-Picayune has put together a nice piece on the relationship between Huey P. Long and Seymour Weiss, who was granted a full and unconditional pardon by Harry S Truman on February 12, 1947.

Long's "preferred residence" in New Orleans was the Roosevelt Hotel which Mahen reports will reopen today! Long met the hotel's general manager and eventual owner, Weiss, and the two became so close that Weiss took charge of Long's personal and campaign finances. As a result, Weiss was a pallbearer at Long's funeral.

In 1934, Weiss was convicted of income tax evasion and surrendered back taxes in order to avoid federal prison. In the late 1930's income tax evasion was decorated with mail fraud charges and a sixteen-month prison sentence was the result.

But Mahen notes that - after parole and pardon - Weiss went on to "become one of the city's most influential businessmen" and, at death, was "reportedly worth more than $15 million." See story here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Louisiana: Pardoned, but not Pardoned!

Michael W. “Mike” Lee was serving as the Constable of Ward 6 until recently, when he submitted his resignation. The 51-year old was elected to position last October but did not reveal on qualifying forms that he had been previously charged with theft, burglary, shoplifting and indecent exposure and was, in fact, a convicted felon. It is reported, however that Lee received a "first-offender pardon" from Department of Corrections that "restored most of his rights." It is argued, however, that he must receive a "gold seal" pardon from the Governor in order to run for public office. At some point, Lee told a newspaper that he had received such a pardon but just did not know where it was. See story here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Louisiana: Rejection

Douglas “Swede” Dennis appeared before the five-member State Pardon Board earlier this month. Dennis is currently serving two life-sentences in the penitentiary for the 1957 "stomping death" of an IRS employee who was thrown into a jail's "drunk tank" with Dennis and the 1964 fatal stabbing of a fellow inmate who, according to Dennis, was threatening him. Dennis also escaped and was a fugitive (albeit law-abiding citizen) from 1979 to 1989.

Now, Dennis is 73-years old and he has experienced triple-bypass heart surgery. He also writes for a prison magazine and has co-edited a criminal justice textbook. A retired warden and a retired FBI agent supported his application for a commutation of sentence. But the request was denied by a unanimous vote. See story here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Louisiana: Rejection

WBRZ reports 73-year old Douglas B. “Swede” Dennis wields a clemency petition with "unqualified" support from a former warden, a retired FBI agent and others. But the State's Pardon Board unanimously denied the request. Dennis is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder in the 1957. In 1964, he received a second life sentence for the fatal stabbing of an inmate. He also escaped, in 1979, and was a fugitive for 10 years. But his attorney sought a commutation of the two life sentences to 70 years, which would make Dennis eligible for parole. See story here

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