District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro
Some might argue that the massive volume of cases going through the criminal justice system in Louisiana is bound to result in mistakes.
Others have suggested that prosecutors may have withheld evidence to speed up trials, or simply to win.
It is hard to prove Judge Johnson’s allegation that there was a conspiracy to lock up as many black youths as possible, but another senior figure in the Louisiana justice system accepts that something was badly wrong during the 30 years the state prosecutor’s office was run by District Attorney Harry Connick (father of the jazz musician and singer, Harry Connick Jr).
“Certainly the reputation of this office traditionally has been stained, there is no question about that,” says the man doing the job now, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro.
There is also no question that this is not the only case, there have been other cases, where prosecutors either intentionally or negligently withheld evidence. The best I can do is move forward.”
“From this point, from the moment I took office, what we said we were going to do, is those things are not going to happen.”
But despite this admission, in the past Cannizzaro has strenuously fought accusations that the prosecutor’s office exhibited a pattern of failures.
On that basis, he refused $14m in compensation to a man named John Thompson, who was freed from death row after evidence withheld by prosecutors was finally brought to light.
He also fought to prevent any court ruling that Robert Jones’s trial was unfair, but in June the Louisiana Supreme Court finally dismissed his appeals.
He then wanted a bond of $2.25 million to be paid if Jones was to be released ahead of a retrial.
But in mid-November that demand was rejected by a judge, who said that pending a retrial – on the charge of rape – Robert could finally leave jail.