DA's Spokeswoman Quits
Leatrice Dupre, chief spokesperson for District Attorney Eddie Jordan Jr. , resigned last Wednesday (Sept. 21) -- three weeks after she and Jordan angrily ended a network television interview. Jordan spokesperson David Bowser said he did not know the reason for Dupre's resignation. Sources say Dupre's days as Jordan's mouthpiece appeared numbered when the DA hired Bowser, shortly after a dramatic Aug. 28 interview with ABC-TV's Nightline program. During the DA's interview with ABC investigative reporter Brian Ross, Dupre stepped in front of the camera and announced the interview was over. Jordan angrily denounced Ross' questions as "stupid." Dupre sarcastically told the reporter, "It was nice meeting you." The DA and Dupre then stormed out of the interview, conducted at the Sheraton Hotel on Canal Street. The next day, Jordan said he had no regrets about his handling of the incident -- although his departure made him the object of national ridicule. Bowser, a former television news reporter, has served as a spokesperson for NOPD, former Criminal Sheriff Charles Foti and, most recently, the Downtown Development District. -- Johnson
Long Ballot Not New
When you step into the voting booth this weekend, don't be in a hurry. Two statewide races top the ballot, followed by various regional tax initiatives and local races. Yet most of the ballot will be dedicated to 13 constitutional amendments. Another eight amendments will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot. For older voters, the long list of amendments is a familiar sight -- Louisiana has adopted more constitutions and amendments than any other state. Since the 1974 Constitution was adopted, weighing in at 35,000 words, 189 amendments have been proposed and 127 have been adopted. A recent study by the Public Affairs Research Council, a nonprofit policy group, suggests Louisiana look at increasing the votes needed for passage and limiting the number of amendments that can appear on the ballot. "However, before such limits might be considered in Louisiana, the constitution would have to be pared back to basic law, and that would require a constitutional convention," the study states. "A comprehensive review of the constitution may be in order, particularly since the last thorough overhaul occurred more than 30 years ago." -- Alford
Fact or Fiction?
Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan Jr. , under attack from pro-law enforcement and civil libertarian groups alike, has published a colorful brochure aimed at rebuffing his critics. "After Katrina: Fact or Fiction ..." features the DA on its cover, smiling and wearing his trademark Homburg hat as he stands before a highway that disappears into white clouds. The DA blames Hurricane Katrina for crippling the criminal justice system and increasing "the level of misunderstanding about the operations" of his office. Jordan's brochure addresses the "fiction" that his pre-Katrina conviction rate was "less than 50 percent." In fact, the brochure states, Jordan's conviction rate improved to 97.2 percent in 2005, from 96.6 percent the previous year. Rafeal Goyeneche, president of the private Metropolitan Crime Commission, says the DA's figures are misleading. "Sixty percent of those convictions were for misdemeanors -- where people didn't go to jail," Goyeneche says. Furthermore, the conviction rate in the brochure does not consider the nearly 50 percent of cases that Jordan's office refused at the screening stage. A less flattering assessment of Jordan's efforts, published four days before Katrina hit, can be found on the MCC's Web site (www.metrocrimeno.org). -- Johnson
Help a Crime Victim
Many armed robbery and assault victims are unaware of a special state fund set up to help them. Funded by restitution fees paid by convicted offenders, the Louisiana Crime Victims Reparations Fund (www.cole.state.la.us) provides crime victims and their families up to $25,000 in reimbursements for medical care, mental health counseling and other costs associated with crime -- after insurance and other sources have been exhausted. The funds are administered by the sheriff in each of Louisiana's 64 parishes but have not been widely publicized since Hurricane Katrina. In New Orleans, the fund is managed by the office of Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman, who designated Capt. Mechelle Delahoussaye as the person responsible for the fund. A spokesperson for Gusman says eligibility criteria for the fund should be posted this week on the sheriff's Web site (www.opcso.org). In addition, Gusman's office welcomes victim referrals by New Orleans police, clergy and concerned citizens. For more information, contact Delahoussaye at (504) 827-6754.
LRA: Count to be Fair
In an item published here last month, Elliott Stonecipher, a political analyst and demographer based in Shreveport, expressed concern about the Louisiana Recovery Authority participating in an upcoming study of population trends. "I think they might be acting too positive" in an effort to paint a rosy picture, Stonecipher said. David Bowman, director of research and special projects for the LRA, says he has discussed the study with Stonecipher and wanted to assure Louisiana residents the count will be fair. The survey was designed by the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Census Bureau, Bowman says. "The role of the (state) has been as the customers," he adds. "We have been involved in defining what elements need to be included on the survey and the reports that will be generated." In all, 18 parishes are being polled for population numbers, and results should start trickling in soon. The study should reveal where displaced residents have landed and how many people have returned home. -- Alford
Orleans Parish Coroner Dr. Frank Minyard last week warned that New Orleans' drug-driven murder rate is decimating the city's black community. "We are losing a whole generation of young black males," says Minyard, 76, the city's elected coroner for the last 32 years. He says most of the "thousands" of homicide victims during his tenure have been black males 18 to 25 years of age. Minyard, who is white, also says the killers in most drug-related homicides are likewise "victims" born into poverty and briefly empowered by guns and drugs. "He didn't start out [to kill]," Minyard says of the typical killer. "He was a victim in the first grade when he entered a failing school system. He was a victim in the second grade when his dad left home, and so on. He's been a victim all his life. Now he has got the guns and the dope. And he has got a one-way ticket to my office or to jail." Minyard says any crime-prevention strategy should include support for two-parent families. The city's homicide toll for 2006 stood at 111 by press time last week. -- Johnson
Thanks For Not Smoking
The attorney general always rings twice -- especially when it comes to snuffing out the influence Hollywood allegedly has over convincing people to smoke by romanticizing it on the big screen. Charles C. Foti Jr. , has once again called upon the movers and shakers of Tinseltown to put anti-smoking public service announcements on all DVDs, videos and other more recent home-viewing formats. Foti's request applies only to films, videos and games in which smoking is depicted. Foti made his latest request on behalf of the American Legacy Foundation, a major anti-smoking advocacy group, along with other attorneys general. To enlist Hollywood's cooperation, the AGs are offering three free ads for insertion into the DVDs and CDs -- the clever "truth" ads that get heavy rotation on TV networks. "I hope we've made an offer that the studios will be happy to accept," Foti says. "Public service announcements already appear on DVDs for many worthwhile causes and organizations, and they are often linked to themes prevalent in the movies they precede." -- Alford