Some funny things happen when you try to tell the truth.
In Louisiana, for instance, a white district attorney is actively undermining and delegitimizing a black judge for daring to say that the criminal justice system “disproportionately puts African Americans in more harm or risk than anyone else.”
As the Acadiana Advocate reports, Sixteenth Judicial District Attorney Bo Duhé is looking to remove Judge Lori Landry from more than 300 cases across three parishes, alleging she’s too “biased and prejudiced” against the DA to be fair or impartial. Never mind that the comments cited by the DA are all fact-based assertions and concerns.
From the Washington Post (emphasis mine):
As evidence of Landry’s alleged bias, prosecutors cite comments that she reportedly made from the bench, such as “African American men do not survive traffic stops with the police.” According to the 27-page motion, she has repeatedly pointed out instances where she believes white defendants are getting more generous plea deals than black defendants, suggested that cops who get caught planting evidence could be indicative of a broader culture of corruption, and claimed that prosecutors apply the state’s habitual offender statute inconsistently, “which disproportionately puts African Americans in more harm or risk than anyone else.”
Landry herself is a former prosecutor, and served as a district attorney for Iberia Parish, the Post reports. If that name sounds familiar to you, it may be because the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s office made headlines in 2016 after a dozen deputies admitted to civil rights crimes—routinely beating and abusing mostly black inmates in the Parish jail (earlier this year, the Sheriff’s office had to pay out $3 million in settlement payouts related to the abuse).
According to the Post, Judge Landry has “reportedly suggested that local prosecutors turned a blind eye to widespread misconduct, saying that they ‘knew or should have known’ about the pervasive problems.”
That suggestion—that a district attorney’s office, which works closely with the sheriff’s office in building cases and bringing them to trial might somehow know about the culture of the organization—was also apparently too much for District Attorney Duhé’s office to handle.
From the Post:
In total, the motion to recuse Landry from upcoming criminal trials contains more than 30 examples of what prosecutors present as improper behavior, dating from October 2015 to September 2019. The judge is accused of referring to a pretrial diversion program as “extortion” and “highway robbery,” claiming that prosecutors “deliberately incarcerate African Americans more severely and at a higher rate than others,” and ruling that evidence should be suppressed because a Louisiana state trooper erred by assuming that African American drivers with out-of-state license plates were “up to something.”
In one instance in which a defendant accused a prosecutor of being racist, Landry reportedly replied that she didn’t believe that was the case, “but, you never know. I wouldn’t doubt that there are prejudices and biases because there are in everyone.”
Landry is also being accused by the DA of bullying staff, victims and others in her courtroom. Hundreds of the judge’s supporters have fiercely advocated for the judge, holding a series of rallies outside the courthouse early last month in solidarity with Landry.
Khadijah Rashad, who helped organize the rallies, told KATC what the DA is doing is “despicable.”
“People believe and support Judge Landry because of her integrity, because of her willingness to look at the evidence,” she said.
Landry’s fate is in the hands of her fellow judges in the 16th Judicial District, among whom hundreds of recusal motions have been distributed. As the Post reports, the DA’s fuckery has also left defendants scheduled to have their cases heard by Landry in limbo, and scheduled hearings have been pushed back by prosecutors, who say they need more time to gather evidence. Typically, this would mean bond hearings would also be delayed—potentially leaving more people in jail for longer periods of time, but Duhé claims that his prosecutors were working directly with defense lawyers to avoid this.
“The perception that we’ve stalled the system is not true,” Duhé told the Daily Advertiser.
Whether Duhé is able to effectively manage a trainwreck of his own making is one matter; what is plainly true is his office would rather risk that wreckage—and the hundreds of lives it would affect—than have a single judge tell them the truth about themselves.