No rape survivor should ever be put in jail to be forced to testify.
But under Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s watch, his office had at least SIX rape survivors arrested to make them appear in court in 2016–and that’s not even the full extent of his office’s horrific practices.1 According to another investigation by The Lens, his office has been issuing FAKE documents made to look like subpoenas to potential witnesses to try and force them to talk to prosecutors.2 On top of this, his office goes after victims and witnesses with ruthless tactics such as charging them with perjury if they recant their testimony.
It’s clear: Cannizzaro is creating a dangerous culture of overzealous prosecution and he must resign before something tragic happens.
The DA’s office should be supporting and centering the needs of survivors, not treating them as a disposable means to an end–where that end is racking up convictions instead of seeking true justice. What’s scary is, this isn’t new. For decades, District Attorney offices across the country have engaged in these harmful practices. In Harris County, TX, former-DA Devon Anderson did the same thing.3 We called for her resignation and she was eventually forced out of office.4 If we can force Cannizzaro to resign, it will continue to send the message that the days of aggressive “lock em up” prosecution are over. Will you sign the petition?
State law requires prosecutors to ask a judge to issue a subpoena if they want to interview a witness in private. Instead, the Orleans and Jefferson Parish district attorneys just sent out fake “D.A. subpoenas.” The law gives them no legal authority to do so.
One of the witnesses who was served one of these fake subpoenas just revealed that she was threatened with jail time TWICE if she didn’t come in for questioning.5 Fayona Bailey said that two representatives from Cannizzaro’s office showed up to her house questioning her about a case–and said she could be sentenced to jail if she didn’t come into their office. Then later they called her house harassing her and repeating the same lie on the day she was supposed to go into the office for questioning. NONE of this was legal.
In a state with the highest Black imprisonment rate–but nowhere near the highest crime rate–Louisiana is a place where it’s even more imperative that we stop this type of dangerous and unlawful hyper-prosecution.6 When news broke about Cannizzaro’s horrific practices, his office tried to immediately make revisions to their policies–but that’s not enough. The entire culture of that office needs to change and Cannizzaro should be held accountable. People are outraged and deserve swift action. This week, local activists are gathering in Louisiana with the rallying cry to “Can Cannizzaro.” Will you join them?
Until justice is real,
— Scott, Rashad, Arisha, Clarise, Anay, Malaya, Enchanta, Katrese, and the rest of the Color Of Change team.
1. “Court watchers demand New Orleans DA stop arresting accusers in rape cases,” The New Orleans Advocate, 4-11-2017
2. “Orleans parish prosecutors are using fake subpoenas to pressure witnesses to talk to them,” The Lens, 4-26-2017
3. “Texas Rape Victim Jailed for Fear She Would Not Testify, Lawsuit Says,” New York Times, 7-23-2016
4. “Kim Ogg ousts Devon Anderson in Harris County DA Race,” Click2Houston.com, 11-08-2016
5. “Woman who got fake subpoena from Orleans D.A. says she was threatened with jail twice,” The Lens, 05-08-2017
6. “Louisiana Number One in Incarceration,” Huffington Post, 05-10-2016