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Author Topic: In New Orleans, Rust in the Wheels of Justice
Deck the Malls

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In New Orleans, Rust In The Wheels Of Justice

Seventeen months ago, when Edward Augustine was arrested with what the police said were marijuana and crack cocaine in his pocket and a handgun in his waistband, he seemed like just another run-of-the-mill drug suspect: easy to prosecute, easy to lock up.

But two months later, the floodwaters rushed through the labyrinth of evidence rooms in the courthouse basement here, scattering tens of thousands of items and leaving a fetid mess. When Mr. Augustine finally came to trial in October, the authorities could no longer find the three things they needed most: the small bag of marijuana, the rocks of crack and the gun. The judge threw out the case, and Mr. Augustine walked free.

As the judge, Lynda Van Davis, put it, Mr. Augustine, 18, had lucked out. But he is not the only lucky defendant in New Orleans. As the city’s criminal justice system slowly gears back up after Hurricane Katrina, as many as 500 defendants, mostly in drug, theft and assault cases, have been freed because of problems with evidence, including difficulty in finding the witnesses who have moved away.

Nothing I can see that could particularly done to remedy the problem, but just an interesting story about the enormous complexity of how much was lost.
Posts: 345 | From: Washington, DC | Registered: Jul 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator

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