May 072019
 

Sophie B. Wright Charter School is at 1426 Napoleon Ave. (via Google Maps)

Sophie B. Wright Charter School filed a motion Monday, May 6, to move a case filed by one its students to federal court. The school’s attorney, Tracie Washington, filed notice as the student, her parents, lawyer and other supporters were set for a hearing at the Orleans Civil District Court.

Lyric Fernandez, an 18-year-old senior, alleged in the April 26 complaint that the Uptown public charter school denied her due process when it determined its punishment for a senior prank.

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Feb 272019
 

George Short, 43, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Central City shooting death.

George Short was sentenced to 20 years last week for the killing of a man in Central City in 2014.

Short, 43, averted his scheduled murder trial and potential life sentence on Feb. 20 by entering into a plea agreement as potential jurors lined up outside the courtroom of Criminal District Judge Arthur Hunter, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office reported.

Under the terms of the agreement, Short pleaded guilty to an amended charge of manslaughter, two counts of illegal possession of a firearm by a felon, and one count of introducing contraband into a corrections facility.

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Feb 202019
 

Attorney Mike Whitaker, left, speaks to then-mayoral candidate Troy Henry in the Leche family kitchen in 2017 about damage to the home during the drainage canal construction outside on Jefferson Avenue. A crack is visible in the wall behind Whitaker. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com file photo)

In a ruling issued Friday, Judge Nakisha Ervin-Knott awarded nearly three-quarters of a million dollars ($770,435) to 10 homeowners for damages resulting from the Southeast Louisiana Urban Drainage Project construction. The Sewerage & Water Board is responsible for the damage, the judge ruled.

The trial is the third for Uptown homeowners suing S&WB for construction and vibration damage.

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Feb 152019
 

Michele Benjamin (courtesy of Loyola’s Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice)

After spending her entire adult life behind bars, Michele Benjamin learned Monday that she will be able to go free, the Loyola University Law Clinic has announced.

Benjamin, 41, was a teenager when she was sentenced to life without parole in 1996 for the murder of a German tourist in New Orleans.

The Loyola law clinic began filing appeals in her case not long after life sentences for juveniles were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012. That ruling, in Miller v. Alabama, was made retroactive by the Louisiana Supreme Court in 2016, paving the way for Benjamin’s release on parole.

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Jan 222019
 

Story by Kristine Froeba

(Photo from Change.org Saints petition website)

Saints fans have filed a lawsuit in state court to compel the commissioner of the National Football League, Roger Goodell, to apply implement Rule 17, Section2, Article 1 and 3, which gives the commission the power of “reversal of the game’s result or rescheduling a game either from the beginning or the point in which the extraordinary act occurred.”

The suit is in direct relation to the NFL’s referee’s no-call, or refusal to flag, a PI, or pass interference, and helmet-on-helmet violation — witnessed by over 30 million people during Sunday’s Divisional game between the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams. Continue reading »

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Nov 292018
 

Prytania Street was transformed into a pit in 2015 for the installation of new drainage canals underground. (photo courtesy of Manual Mondragon, @mm_dragon on Twitter)

A civil judge found the Sewerage & Water Board liable this week for more than $500,000 in damages to 11 homes along the major Napoleon Avenue drainage project, awarding sums ranging from $13,000 to $110,000 to the individual homeowners as hundreds more cases remain pending. Continue reading »

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Nov 122018
 

A photo of Jennifer Thompson in college in the 1980s and Ronald Cotton in the booking photos she was shown after her rape. (via http://www.pickingcottonbook.com)

In 1984, a man broke into to college student Jennifer Thompson’s apartment while she was sleeping and raped her in her bed, but she did her utmost through the assault to scrutinize every aspect of his appearance so she could give police as complete a description as possible. She helped create a composite sketch that swiftly led to an arrest, and her testimony sent Ronald Cotton to prison for both her rape and another woman’s for two life sentences.

Ten years later, DNA evidence proved that Cotton was not, in fact, Thompson’s attacker, and that the actual rapist was a similar-looking man Cotton had been blaming throughout the appeals process. While Cotton sat in prison, that man committed dozens of other violent crimes, including six rapes — leading Thompson to the horrifying realization that her mistaken identification not only sent an innocent man to jail, but also allowed a rapist to walk the streets free.

“If we’re going to talk about wrongful conviction, we also have to talk about wrongful liberty,” Thompson said. “…Everybody gets hurt. Everybody is failed — everybody except the perpetrator, who lives to be free.” Continue reading »

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Nov 092018
 

Robert Jones, who, in 2017, was exonerated of four different crimes from the 1990s, speaks to the audience at “Protecting the Innocent: Louisiana’s Reform of Eyewitness Identifications” at Loyola University New Orleans’ Law School on Friday, November 11. Jones was exonerated with the help of the Innocence Project of New Orleans. (Zach Brien, UptownMessenger.com)

Accurate descriptions of suspects have proven to be extremely difficult to come by, even under the best of circumstances, a noted criminologist said Friday morning during the 2018 Loyola Law Review Symposium, “Protecting the Innocent: Louisiana’s Reform of Eyewitness Identifications.”

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Oct 262018
 

From left: Will Snowden, Mithun Kamath, Norris Henderson, and Aaron Ahlquist discuss Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury law and the amendment that would change it.

Twelve men, one room, and a murder charge.

“It has to be twelve to nothing, either way. That’s the law.”

Sidney Lumet’s “12 Angry Men” is one of the most respected films centered around the criminal justice system. But the overall plot, where members of a 12-man jury must agree on a verdict that could send a teenager to the electric chair, could never occur in the state of Louisiana under state law.

Louisiana does not require unanimous jury verdicts in felony trials, instead allowing 10-2 verdicts to send the accused to prison for life. The abnormal verdict law stems from nearly 130 years ago, when delegates at an overtly racist convention ratified the state constitution to allow for non-unanimous juries. Norris Henderson, state director of the Unanimous Jury Coalition, explained the laws’ history during an intimate panel hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans.

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Oct 182018
 

Roland Butler (via NOPD)

A 45-year-old man has been indicted in connection with a violent rape in the Irish Channel more than two decades ago after DNA taken from him during a firearms arrest matched genetic material stored in a rape kit, New Orleans police and prosecutors said. Continue reading »

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Oct 112018
 

Martha Lemoine talks about the US Constitution to students of the Nancy Marsiglia Institute. (photo by Danae Columbus for UptownMessenger.com)

Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

In a fiery speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Gold Star father Khizr Khan talked about falling in love with the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. A Pakistani immigrant whose son Army Captain Humayun Khan was killed in Iraq in 2004, Khan offered to lend Donald Trump his copy so Trump could look up the words “liberty” and “equal protection under the law.”

New Orleans civic activist Madalyn Schenk was inspired by Khan’s speech and decided to form a different kind of book club – one that exclusively studied the Constitution and accompanying documents. That “constitution club” has now grown into the Nancy Marsiglia Institute, a 12-week cooperative program between Loyola University Law School and the United Way of Southeast Louisiana. The late philanthropist Nancy Marsiglia was the first person Schenk approached to participate. Soon other women including Councilmember Helena Moreno, Patty Riddlebarger, Ruth Kullman and United Way COO Charmaine Caccioppi joined in. Constitution expert Martha Lemoine Palmer, a mentor teacher and national judge for the Center for Civic Education’s We the People project, agreed to lead the class. Loyola Law School Dean Madeleine Landrieu – then Appeals Court Judge – bestowed the first graduation certificates. Continue reading »

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Sep 272018
 

Volunteers with the New Leaders Council assist with voter registration at an event for the Unanimous Jury Coalition at Urban South Brewery on Tuesday, Sept. 25. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

The statewide effort to create a constitutional amendment requiring a unanimous jury vote for a conviction came to Uptown New Orleans this week, registering voters and rallying supporters for the Nov. 6 ballot question. Continue reading »

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Jul 212018
 

Second City Court Constable Edwin Shorty Jr. swears that his filing information is correct during qualifying on Wednesday, July 18. Shorty is one of six local officials re-elected without opposition during qualifying. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Four local judicial seats will be filled without elections this year, after only one candidate for each of them qualified to be on the Nov. 6 special and Congressional election ballots. Continue reading »

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