Silence Is Violence

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July 20 weekly update

Date: Tue, Jul. 24, 2007

July 20, 2007

In the midst of all the politicking, and fingerpointing, and chaos that has been swirling around District Attorney Eddie Jordan and his office recently, we are writing to you with a message of hope this week.

Last Wednesday, July 11, a short time after our organization had written to Mayor Nagin with a renewed call for stronger leadership on his part—and a notice that this call would be printed in the following day’s Times-Picayune—the Mayor came forward to make a public statement about the poor performance of the DA’s office. While we wish Mayor Nagin would focus more on what he himself can do to lead us through the current crisis, it was nonetheless a positive sign that he felt compelled to publicly acknowledge the untenability of our situation.

As the calls for Jordan’s resignation, recall, or otherwise forced ouster accumulated last week, Mr. Jordan announced certain changes to take place within his department. Many denounced Mr. Jordan’s actions as merely gestural, simple politics, and woefully insufficient in light of the dire ineffectiveness of his office. However, while we are far from interpreting the recent shifts as indicative of a sudden managerial epiphany on Mr. Jordan’s part, and while public pressure and attention on his truly catastrophic performance must be sustained, SilenceIsViolence has observed first-hand some tangible benefits of the recent changes at the DA. Like many of you, we have come to feel that significant improvement in our criminal justice system may not be possible under the guidance of Eddie Jordan, and that his removal from office would represent progress toward a safer city. For today, however, we will focus on the progress that we as citizens have claimed:

Immediately after Dinerral Shavers’s murder case was dismissed on July 6, our organization and Dinerral’s family formally requested that the case be moved to the relatively new Violent Offenders Unit of the DA. Last week, Mr. Jordan announced that all murder cases in Orleans Parish will now be handled by the Violent Offenders Unit. Yesterday we met with two of these new attorneys (Mary Glass and Francis Deblanc), and we were very impressed by their credentials, their attentiveness, and especially their professional energies, which appear to far exceed any we have encountered thus far with the DA. Meanwhile, we have established very consistent communication with the New Orleans Police Department and are satisfied that the detectives there are aggressively pursuing additional evidence and witnesses in Dinerral’s case. Moreover, the NOPD homicide unit has told us directly that they feel encouraged by the improved communication they are experiencing with the Violent Offenders Unit at the DA.

Six months ago, Dinerral’s case would have been over once it had been dismissed. There would have been a brief flare-up of disappointment, then the case would have fallen off the radar and the police as well as the DA would have been off the hook on this one. Not anymore. Now, with the intensified public attention to the workings of the system and a better-informed public, accountability has increased, and the standard of performance is slowly but surely rising along with it. Amazingly, today we are able to be hopeful that Dinerral’s case will be reinstated in the near future.

We are not yet satisfied; we are not yet safe. We want to see a higher standard applied to all violent cases, not just the high-profile ones. But we are making headway. Keep yourselves informed, and keep up your phone calls and letters. We are not going to let this historic opportunity for change go by.

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