New Orleans Office Again Under Fire In High Court


For the third time in 16 years and the second time in two, New Orleans’ district attorney's office must explain itself before the U.S. Supreme Court, the New York Times reports. Each case involves charges of prosecutorial misconduct, particularly the failure to turn over crucial evidence tot he defense, a constitutional violation that defense lawyers, former prosecutors and four Supreme Court justices have said was at least at one time “pervasive” in the district attorney's office. In the case last year, one of the key issues was not whether the misconduct took place, but just how widespread it was.

On Tuesday, the justices will hear the case of Juan Smith, who was convicted of murdering five people. The court will consider whether he deserves a new trial because prosecutors withheld evidence from his lawyers. Such a concealment can be a violation of Brady v. Maryland, the 1963 Supreme Court decision that required prosecutors to turn over favorable evidence to the defense. The Orleans Public Defenders office said that 28 convictions obtained by the district attorney's office were later ruled to have been tainted by violations of this kind. The district attorney's office disagrees, saying the correct number is 13. In its own Supreme Court brief, it called such lapses lamentable.

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