New Orleans DA, Who Fought Exonerations of People Found to Be Innocent, Retiring

By Ayanna Gandhi

NEW ORLEANS – The District Attorney for Orleans Parish, who fought to restore criminal cases of people who had been exonerated because of prosecutorial and police misconduct, announced Friday he was retiring rather than seek re-election.

DA Leon Cannizzaro drew intense criticism for doggedly—but unsuccessfully—pursuing new cases against defendants who had been exonerated, even when the faulty convictions dated back to before he took office.

Cannizzaro, WWLTV reports, “departs after a successful career in which he was undefeated as a candidate, but he leaves a decidedly more mixed reputation as the city’s top prosecutor amid changing times and wholesale calls for criminal justice reform.”

His exit comes after a controversial term.

WWLTV reports note that the DA’s “declining popularity was tied to a number of controversies, including his office’s continued use of so-called ‘fake subpoenas’ designed to compel reluctant witnesses to appear in court, as well as the use of material witness warrants to arrest some victims who refused to testify.

WWLTV political analyst Clancy Dubos said, “It’s safe to say that popular opinion started turning against him in about 2016 after his use of fake subpoenas and arresting material witnesses. But on a political note, candidates are like canned foods that have a ‘best-used-by’ date. Many politicians don’t recognize when their date has expired, but I think Cannizzaro used wisdom to see that the time had come for him to step aside.”

Cannizzaro’s step down leaves four candidates in the race as of now. New Orleans City Council President Jason Williams and former Orleans Parish Criminal Court judges Arthur Hunter and Keva Landrum qualified Wednesday. Former judge Morris Reed, Sr., who is a former federal and state prosecutor and New Orleans police officer, entered the race shortly before qualifying closed at 4:30 p.m. Friday.

Cannizzaro stated, “I have decided against seeking a third term as the Orleans Parish District Attorney. I have proudly devoted the past 42 years of my life to the cause of making New Orleans a safer place to live, work, raise families and visit. But after long discussions with my wife and family, it became apparent that my interest in serving another term has waned, outweighed by a desire to spend more time with my family, especially my nine grandchildren born since I first took office. This was not an easy decision, but it is the one with which I’m most at peace.”

He continued, saying, “It is my hope that the citizens of New Orleans will take care choosing my successor. The job of District Attorney in this city may often be a thankless one, but that does not diminish its importance. I am proud of our achievements over 12 years in this office. From repairing a tattered relationship with our city’s police department, to establishing the best Diversion program in Louisiana, to taking more than 700 New Orleans killers off the streets and dismantling numerous street gangs, we have been steadfast in seeking justice for crime victims and improving public safety. reports that “Cannizzaro’s announcement, 90 minutes before the end of the three-day qualifying period, instantly transformed a race that once seemed destined to pit him against Williams, a criminal defense attorney, in a clash of political headliners and ideologies.”

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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