For far too long, New Orleans has been ground zero for unfairness in the criminal legal system. As the most incarcerated city in the world and the city with the highest number of exonerations, it is no secret that the criminal legal system in New Orleans is in need of major reform. This broken system has doubled down on mass-producing convictions and over-criminalization but has failed to increase safety for families in our city. As a Black male District Attorney in the South, DA Williams is particularly sensitive to the disparities that exist within the criminal legal system.

Upon taking office, DA Williams launched the office’s first-ever Civil Rights Division to address past harm and injustice, increase transparency and accountability of criminal justice officials, and prosecute those who exploit vulnerable communities by abusing economic or political power. Within this division, we launched the Undoing Jim Crow Juries Civil Rights Initiative to begin repairing 120+ years of injustice by methodically and efficiently reviewing all applications to the court for cases where individuals were convicted by a non-unanimous jury. Additionally, the Civil Rights Division reviews cases of wrongful convictions and excessive sentences. We have exonerated several individuals mistreated by the criminal legal system, including Jermaine Hudson, who spent over 20 years in prison for a crime that never occurred; Betty Broaden, who spent nearly four decades in prison wrongfully convicted of murder after defending herself against a sexual predator; and Guy Frank, who spent 20 years in prison for stealing two shirts.

We are also working on several initiatives to bring reform to New Orleans. To focus resources and energy on pursuing the most violent offenders, we have refused to prosecute many low-level drug possession offenses. In the pursuit of justice for those who lost their lives in the unfortunate Hard Rock collapse, we have convened a special unit of prosecutors to gather and assess evidence of any criminality leading up to the event.

We also launched the office’s first Cold Case Unit. Designed to get murderers off the streets and bring healing to families, this unit targets cold cases by revisiting past data and information, putting fresh eyes on evidence, and reexamining behaviors to ensure the DA’s Office is doing everything possible to secure justice for victims and families.

Delivering Justice for Our People

Betty Jean Broaden Case

Betty Jean Broaden’s illustrates why reviewing convictions is critical to address past harm. The criminal legal system has been reluctant to recognize the right of self-defense for people of color and has been unresponsive and [...]

Henry Phillips Case

Henry Phillips' case illustrates the importance of revisiting extreme sentences. Mr. Phillips was convicted of purse snatching for taking a wallet off of a McDonald's counter in 2009. He biked away with $20 in cash [...]

Loretta Norman Case

Norman was arrested after her four-month-old baby was found unresponsive suffering from multiple injuries including blunt force head trauma, lacerated frenulum, bruising to face, long bone fractures of varying ages and rib fractures of varying [...]