Jeremy Alford

Does Louisiana have separate brands of justice?

by Jeremy Alford

The chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus wants the House and Senate judicial committees to study potential race disparities that may exist in sentencing guidelines. New Orleans Democratic Rep. Juan LaFonta wants to know if there’s a difference in the length and harshness of sentences imposed by judges for similar crimes committed by Caucasians and African-Americans.
LaFonta argues that the Louisiana Supreme Court has not effectively addressed, nor made any effective progress, to “change the unequal justice manifested upon the poor and economically disadvantaged, particularly minorities.” His resolution also questions the fairness of local prosecutions. It states, “The prosecution of crimes in district court is totally at the discretion of a district attorney who may have more bias against some accused defendants than other accused defendants, and it is totally within his prerogative whom he prosecutes and for what crime he accuses the person of committing, except when there is an indictment by the grand jury.”
If LaFonta’s House Concurrent Study Resolution 1 gains favor with lawmakers, the joint judicial committee would have to report its findings to the Legislature prior to Feb. 28, 2009 — just in time for next year’s regular session.