NEW ORLEANS – Last week, the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office (OPDA) secured a guilty as charged of Second Degree Rape verdict in a case. District Attorney Jason Williams, OPDA Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) Division Chief Mary Glass and Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Naomi Jones secured the conviction of defendant William McDonough for the rape of a victim in the 900 block of Poeyfarre Street in September 2016.
“The defendant’s lawyer asked the jury why the elected District Attorney was in court personally prosecuting this case. Perhaps, he thought that this case wasn’t serious enough for me to personally try it. Well, I disagreed,” said District Attorney Jason Williams. “The American legal system historically has not treated the crime of rape as seriously as it should because of the sexism and misogyny embedded in it. That is the same sexism that compelled the defendant’s lawyer to call his colleague, the survivor in this case, a girl rather than a woman in court. She is a woman. She went to 4 years of college, 3 years of law school and sat for the bar just like him. Those dark days are over, at least here in New Orleans. A rape is a horrific, horrid crime and will be treated as such.”
The trial took place in Section B of Criminal District Court; Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier presided. The sentencing date is set for April 2022.
The conviction secured builds on the work of prosecutors to secure guilty verdicts on all charges in all cases, including four murder cases, presented in court since jury trials resumed on March 7, 2022.
“Criminal justice reform does not mean being soft on crime. It means being smart on crime by using our limited resources to go after our most violent offenders and ensure we are holding them accountable. This guilty verdict is proof of this commitment,” said District Attorney Jason Williams. “With this conviction and the four other guilty jury verdicts we have secured in the first two weeks of the resumption of jury trials, we continue to move closer toward increasing safety in our city. Violence will not be tolerated in this city and we will do everything in our power to ensure that those who choose to wreak havoc are prosecuted.”
UNPRECEDENTED REALITIES AS JURY TRIALS RESUME
After a COVID-induced hiatus, jury trials resumed in New Orleans. While OPDA prosecutors are ready to get back to court, the office is faced with some unprecedented realities. This includes an unprecedented case backlog with 150 cases scheduled for trial in March 2022 alone; this is compared to only 48 jury trials that took place in all of 2019. Additionally, this includes an unprecedented DNA backlog with the State; the DNA backlog across Louisiana includes over 2,000 cases. OPDA is waiting on key evidence in a number of cases. Additionally, OPDA is tackling some of the most difficult cases inherited including retrying 60 reversals based on Ramos v. Louisiana, cases where the office was unable to procure unanimous jury verdicts when they were originally tried years ago.
As the caseload increases, OPDA is in need of additional staff, funding and resources. District Attorney Williams continues to double down on his request to the New Orleans City Council and Mayor LaToya Cantrell to fund our requests for additional lawyers, more DNA testing analysts, and Cold Case funding to improve OPDA’s capacity and help prosecutors build stronger cases. The City of New Orleans has millions of dollars sitting in City coffers from the federal government that are earmarked for this exact need that are not being spent. OPDA needs immediate action to hire more people to handle this increased workload.
“We are prosecutors. Trying cases in front of a jury is what we do, so we are excited to back to court. However, we are faced with some of the most unprecedented challenges this office has ever seen. From an increased case load to a large DNA backlog, our office needs support and resources from City leadership,” said District Attorney Williams. “These times are absolutely the most challenging we’ve faced in recent history, but we are holding those who commit violent offenses accountable and securing justice for the victims and families. This office will be steadfast in restoring trust in our criminal legal system by securing convictions in some of the most difficult cases as well as addressing decades of indifference to the concerns of community.”