Launched by District Attorney Williams, the purpose of the Civil Rights Division of the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office is to confront past harm and injustice, increase the transparency and accountability of criminal justice officials, and hold accountable those who exploit vulnerable communities by abusing legal, economic, or political power.
Confronting past harm and injustice is beginning through the Conviction and Sentence Review Unit. Conviction review identifies and remedies wrongful convictions. Wrongful convictions are those where evidence now suggests the person is factually innocent, where the conviction was obtained in part by prosecution or law enforcement misconduct, or convictions obtained through the use of racially discriminatory prosecution or law enforcement practices or the use of a racially discriminatory law. The sentence review process addresses extreme sentencing practices of the past by reviewing and rectifying where appropriate, extreme sentences that no longer serve legitimate penal purposes. Categories of sentences being reviewed include the racially disparate use of habitual offender sentencing enhancements, long sentences imposed on juveniles tried as adults, extreme sentences imposed for non-violent behavior or for behavior which, though categorized as a violent crime, involved no violence to another. Confronting past harm includes supporting cold case homicide investigations.
Increasing transparency and accountability of criminal justice officials will be done by the Law Enforcement Accountability Team, which tracks, investigates, and reports complaints of past or present misconduct by law enforcement officials and seeks professional or criminal consequences for those responsible where appropriate. The Vulnerable Communities Team will undertake sustained community outreach with traditionally marginalized groups, including LGBTQ+ and migrant communities, to investigate and seek accountability for those responsible if the office finds abuse of legal, political, or economic power. We will also work with city and state officials to improve policies and legislation to enable the prosecutions of employers or business owners who victimize poor communities.