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. The school had suspended about 30 students for five days after a water fight injured a teacher and another student, according to a statement from the school. Sophie B. Wright administration officials also revoked their senior privileges, such as walking for graduation, senior prom and senior picnic.
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. On Feb.
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. S&WB must pay the homeowners’ attorneys’ fees and costs, pushing the award to over $1 million, according to plaintiff attorney Michael Whitaker. So far 25 cases have been litigated with 275 more to go.
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. The circumstances of Benjamin’s case have inspired support in the local social justice community.
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.
Civil District Court in New Orleans, located on Poydras Street, has published a copy of the lawsuit on its online database, and local attorneys are already discussing the outcome. The caption of the lawsuit reads:
Badeaux, Tommy, New Orleans Saints Ticket Holders, New Orleans Saints National Fan Base a/k/a the Who Dat Nation versus NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, et al. An observation by New Orleans attorney Duris Holmes is that the NFL’s attorney is usually the same attorney retained by the Bensons and the Saints football team. A Writ of Mandamus was also filed, “a writ directing a public officer or a corporation or an officer thereof to perform” certain duties. That duty for a corporation includes, “the performance of other duties required by the corporate charter or bylaws,” as explained by leading attorney Duris Holmes via social media.
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. The judgment, signed Tuesday by Civil District Court Judge Nakisha Ervin-Knott finds that the Southeast Louisiana Urban Drainage Project caused damage to the plaintiffs’ homes or exacerbated damage that already existed, and that the Sewerage & Water Board is the agency responsible. Ervin-Knott also specifies the pile-driving as a cause of the damage on Napoleon Avenue, and details exactly how much the project cost each of the 11 plaintiffs in actual damage and loss of use of their property. According to a news release from attorney Michael Whitaker’s office:
The judgment was handed down in the second of what will be many trials. So far, 21 claims have been tried by the Court, leaving more than 280 to go.
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.
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.” The quality of witness descriptions is heavily influenced by both the quality of the witness’s memory and the techniques used by law enforcement to elicit those details, said Dr. Jennifer Dysart of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. For example, the presence of a weapon in a robbery often occupies the victim’s attention more than the suspect’s face, and brain research simply shows that all people have more trouble identifying facial features of races different from their own. New research has identified techniques to improve the accuracy of these descriptions, Dysart said, so law-enforcement training should begin to include them. The symposium also included a presentation by Robert Jones, who was wrongfully convicted of a crime spree in New Orleans in the 1990s, but went on to become Angola’s prison counsel for nearly 20 years before he was exonerated and released in 2017.
Two men accused in separate murders in Broadmoor and Carrollton earlier this year were indicted Thursday by a grand jury, prosecutors said. The first indictment was in the fatal killing of 31-year-old Keyan Watkins on April 18 in the 3600 block of South Roman Street. Kline Lee, 51, is charged with second-degree murder and other offenses after allegedly shooting Watkins and another woman after an argument over money escalated, said District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office:
Kline Lee, 51, was charged with obstruction of justice, being a felon in possession of a firearm, attempted second-degree murder and the second-degree murder of Keyan Watkins in a four-count indictment handed up by an Orleans Parish grand jury. Ad hoc Criminal District Judge Dennis Waldron set Lee’s bond at $900,000 after the indictment was read. Watkins, 34, died from a gunshot to the face sustained around 9:18 p.m. in the 3600 block of South Roman Street on April 18, 2018.
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.