Friday, August 8, 2014

St. Tammany District Attorney Candidates Scheduled to Debate

District Attorney seats are up for re-election this November across the state of Louisiana.

The first debate between candidates for the St Tammany District Attorney Office is scheduled for Tuesday, August 26, at John Davis Center, 61100 North 12th St., Lacombe, at 6 PM. The candidates are Roy Burns, Alan Black, and Brian Trainor.

The District Attorney (Prosecutor) is the most powerful law enforcement official in the criminal justice system, even more than judges or sheriffs. The DA is free to dismiss a case, file more charges against an offender or transfer that case to a Federal Court. There is no oversight that requires him to assure racial or ethnic equality before the law.  He can cause an offender to plead guilty even if innocent by overcharging the offender.

The measure of a DA’s success may be the number of convictions they achieve. In St. Tammany that is 89%, mostly plea bargains not trial by jury. Perhaps this is the Why and the How Louisiana became the “Prison Capital of the World”.

Please plan to attend this candidate debate sponsored by Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany. 
Here are some questions that you can ask in addition to your own:

1.     What changes would you make to the structure of the office to help bolster public confidence in the DA’s office?
2.     What is your position regarding special courts (drug and mental health) and diversion programs that are designed to keep people out of jails and prisons?
3.     What is your position regarding the prosecution of individuals found with small amounts of marijuana?
4.     What can your office do to assist the formerly incarcerated to transition back into society?
5.     What changes will you make regarding your office’s policy on plea bargains, if any?
6.     Can you assure an ongoing review of charges across racial and ethnic groups to assure all segments of the community are treated equally?

7.     Do you feel that offenders understand the lifetime disadvantages (barriers to employment, housing, voting, licensing, access to education, food stamps, etc.) involved if they “plead” guilty to a felony?  

--Bonnie Schmidt           

related article:
"3 Announced St. Tammany DA Candidates Raised More than $148,000 in Latest Reporting," Heather Nolan, 06 August, 2014,