NEW ORLEANS – Last week, the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office (OPDA) secured a unanimous guilty as charged verdict of defendant Michael Shorts for the murder of his uncle, Emmanuel Varnado, in the Broadmoor Neighborhood in January 2020. Led by Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) Samantha Stagias and Forrest Ladd, Shorts was convicted of Second Degree Murder and Obstruction of Justice.

“We are committed to increasing safety and justice in this city by being laser-focused on the violent crime taking place in neighborhoods. This conviction is proof of our commitment to New Orleans,” said District Attorney Jason Williams. “This conviction would not have been possible without great investigative work across law enforcement agencies to provide evidence of Shorts’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and strong prosecutorial work by the ADAs in this office. Thanks to ADAs Stagias and Ladd, lead Homicide Detective Nickolas Davis of the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), and the Louisiana State Police for all of your hard work on this case. I am proud that justice was served.”

According to the NOPD reports, Shorts killed his uncle by shooting him eight times. The evidence in this case consisted of the testimony of multiple eye witnesses, expert testimony from DNA experts at the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab, and investigative work led by Detective Davis.

The trial took place in Section A of Criminal District Court; Judge Laurie White presided. The sentencing date is set for August 29, 2022.

This conviction builds on the success of DA Williams and OPDA prosecutors to secure convictions in court since the resumption of jury trials in March. When cases come to OPDA with sufficient evidence, the District Attorney’s Office has vigorously fought for victims of violent crimes. Guilty jury trial verdicts secured since March include:

  • DA Williams, along with OPDA Trials Division Chief Matthew Derbes, secured the conviction of Samuel Hunter for the Second Degree Murder of Anthony Bridges in the 1700 block of Monroe Street on Christmas Day 2020.
  • ADAs Liz Strauss and Adele Krieger secured the conviction of Demeccio Caston for the Second Degree Murder of Patrick Lamar in New Orleans East in August 2019.
  • ADAs Samantha Stagias and Carmen Gealogo secured the conviction of Trae Williams for the manslaughter of his uncle Eddie Salvant III in Algiers in April 2014.
  • Chief Derbes and ADA Joe Zanetti secured the conviction of Harrison Bethley for the murder of his cousin, Darnell Thomas, in the 1800 block of Treasure Street in February 2020.
  • ADAs Corbin Bates and Carmen Gealogo secured the conviction of Jhustyn Garrett for Domestic Abuse stemming from an incident that took place in the 5700 block of Saint Anthony Street.
  • DA Williams, along with OPDA Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) Unit Chief Mary Glass and ADA Naomi Jones, secured the conviction of William McDonough for the rape of a victim in the 900 block of Poeyfarre Street in September 2016.
  • ADA/Screening Division Chief Andre Gaudin and First Asst. Ned McGowan secured the conviction of Christopher Alexander for the murder of Idrick Brister in New Orleans East in 2018.
  • ADAs Simone Levine and Brad Scott secured the conviction of Gerald “Frog” West for the murder of Marion Brit Hutson, Jr. in New Orleans East in February 2018.
  • SAKI Chief Mary Glass and ADA Naomi Jones secured the cold case conviction of defendant Roland Butler for kidnapping, robbery, and sexual assault in the 1100 block of Toledano Street in 1996.
  • ADA Samantha Stagias secured the conviction of Tremaine Williams for Aggravated Battery and Felon with a Firearm in New Orleans East in September 2020.
  • DA Williams, along with ADAs Christian Hebert-Pryor and Screening Chief Andre Gaudin, secured the conviction of Garrett Ward for the killing of 60-year-old Arnold Jackson in the 2000 block of Saint Charles Avenue in January 2018.
  • Deputy Chief of Trials Lilian Hangartner and ADA Samantha Stagias secured the unanimous conviction of Joshua Riley for a Third Degree Rape that took place in the French Quarter in July 2019.
  • ADAs Alex Calenda and Katherine Messina secured the conviction of Michael Robinson for the Second Degree Murders of Leroy Benn, Jr., Gavonte Lampkin, and Shantrell Parker that took place in the in the 5000 block of Tullis Street in Gentilly in July 2018.
  • ADAs Tori Guidry and Susan Kutcher secured the conviction of Damien Jenkins for Aggravated Assault with a Firearm and Felon in Possession of a Firearm, which took place in the 3600 block of General De Gaulle Drive in Algiers in March 2020.
  • Deputy Chief of Trials Lilian Hangartner and ADA Penny Kissinger secured the conviction of defendant Shonnon Esteen for the rape of two minors in Orleans Parish between 2006 to 2010.


Since November 2021, the DA’s Office has argued that as the caseload increases due to the crime surge and COVID-19 backlog, 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, among other needs, to improve OPDA’s capacity and help prosecutors build stronger cases.

The City of New Orleans has millions of dollars from the federal government that are earmarked for this exact need that are not being spent. The District Attorney’s Office 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 be back in court presenting cases with strong evidence in pursuit of justice and increased safety. 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 the most difficult cases as well as addressing decades of indifference to the concerns of the community.”