Collection

Press

The below 12/16/2006 Times-Picayune Article is attached as well:\r\n\r\nDuring the next month, scores of law students will descend on Orleans Parish Prison and other lock-ups throughout the state to interview pretrial inmates who have been stuck in legal limbo in a crippled criminal justice system. \r\n\r\nIn an effort dubbed the Katrina-Gideon Interview Project, about 100 law students, as well as some lawyers, will begin training this weekend, giving up a week of their winter break to conduct in-depth interviews with clients of the New Orleans public defenders office. An additional 50 students are expected to join them in the coming weeks, said Morgan Williams, a student at Tulane Law School and a founder of the Student Hurricane Network, which connects law students with people who need legal help after Hurricane Katrina. \r\n\r\nThey will target hundreds of prisoners arrested before the storm and still waiting for their day in court, as well as those arrested in the wake of Katrina, when the indigent defense system collapsed. \r\n\r\n\"This is a great opportunity to do meaningful work as a student,\" said Rick Heyer, a senior staff attorney at the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific in Sacramento, Calif. \r\n\r\nSixty-four students from that school, as well as 16 faculty members, are in Louisiana for the week. \r\n\r\nThe interviews will provide the public defenders office with the foundation for potential defenses, such as identifying possible witnesses and evidence, said Ronald Sullivan, a Yale Law School professor and a consultant to the Orleans Indigent Defense Board. Before Hurricane Katrina, most public defenders, who worked part time defending the poor while maintaining a private practice, did not keep what Sullivan called \"meaningful\" case files. The new board running the public defenders office started to change that this summer, he said. \r\n\r\nAt the opening training day for the project, participants said setting up the interviews has required an \"unprecedented\" amount of cooperation among the various components of the criminal justice system, including defense attorneys, the district attorney\'s office, the criminal sheriff who runs the local jail, and the state Department of Corrections that is housing some New Orleans inmates. \r\n\r\n\"There is one thing we all agree about: As a fundamental fairness, people should be adjudicated as quickly as possible,\" said Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan, who said that helping lawyers get information about their clients will help speed up the process. \r\n\r\nAs part of the effort, Jordan\'s office will supply the public defenders with \"rap sheets\" that show defendants\' records, police reports about the crimes they are charged with and lists of where prisoners are located. \r\n\r\nJordan estimated that 2,000 pre-Katrina cases remain on the dockets at Criminal District Court, with about 400 people in jail for incidents from before the storm. \r\n\r\nWilliams said he expected the students to conduct about 600 interviews during the next month, some of which will send the students to far-flung prisons across Louisiana. \r\n\r\nCurrently, 630 pretrial inmates from New Orleans remain in custody outside of the city, according to the Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff\'s Office. But Sheriff Marlin Gusman said that he plans to begin opening a group of high-tech tents he has erected near the House of Detention. The tents will function as temporary jail space and eventually allow all of the city\'s prisoners to be returned. \r\n\r\nGusman offered the students a word of caution about the people they will be talking to, many of them located at his facilities in New Orleans. \"I do have to remind you that these are jails; most of the (people) are there for good reason,\" he said. \r\n\r\nAfter Katrina, the crippled public defense system left thousands of people charged with crimes without access to lawyers. Because the office was financed primarily through court fees, which stopped flowing into city coffers after the storm, most of the attorneys were laid off. \r\n\r\nBut Orleans Parish Indigent Defense Board member Pamela Metzger, who directs the Tulane Criminal Law Clinic and helped organize the interview project, said the new leaders are now trying to change how legal representation is provided to the poor in New Orleans. \r\n\r\n\"Poor people are entitled to have lawyers with names and voices,\" she said. \r\n

Citation

“[Untitled],” Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, accessed July 20, 2024, https://hurricanearchive.org/items/show/14536.