The Prosecutor Project was launched by Civil Rights Corps in 2017 to challenge pervasive abuses of power by criminal prosecutors, who are among the biggest drivers of our country's addiction to mass human caging. With painstaking investigation and aggressive litigation, the Prosecutor Project creates accountability for officials who have historically acted with impunity. The Project is an effort to do what Civil Rights Corps has done with modern debtors' prisons and the money bail system: use rigorous, innovative litigation to fundamentally change the discourse and narrative around long-settled and entrenched aspects of the American criminal system.
Singleton et. al. v. Cannizzaro et. al
The Prosecutor Project's initiating piece of litigation, this lawsuit seeks to end the unconstitutional deception and jailing of crime victims and witnesses by the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office. The lawsuit details District Attorney Cannizzaro’s illegal scheme of fabricating subpoenas to coerce crime victims and witnesses of crimes into submitting to interrogations, and presenting fraudulent information in court to persuade judges to issue arrest warrants. For crime victims and witnesses who don’t appear as ordered, the District Attorney’s Office further abuses its power and authority to have these witnesses, who are victims of crimes, put in jail. Civil Rights Corps, and our amazing partners at the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana, filed a lawsuit in federal court against District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro and ten assistant district attorneys challenging this scheme. Read the Complaint.
Renata Singleton was the victim in a domestic violence case; in 2015, she was jailed for five days on a $100,000 bond after she exercised her right not to submit to a private interrogation with prosecutors at the District Attorney's Office. Ms. Singleton was brought to court in an orange jumpsuit and shackles. The man accused of abusing her had been released at his arraignment on a $3500 bond, and came to court from home in his own clothes. As a result of her experiences, Ms. Singleton is afraid to ever call the police again.
Marc Mitchell was the victim of an attempted murder in 2015. While Mr. Mitchell and his cousin were playing basketball in a public park, a man fired 28 bullets at them. Mr. Mitchell spent two months in the hospital with life-threatening injuries. After Mr. Mitchell decided not to meet with prosecutors for a private interrogation, he was arrested in the lobby of the hotel where he worked. Mr. Mitchell was wearing his hotel uniform: a bow-tie, a white dinner jacket, and black tuxedo pants. Mr. Mitchell spent the night in jail on a $50,000 bond.
Ms. Jackson is the Executive Director of Silence is Violence, an Orleans Parish organization founded with the mission of advocating for crime victims and safer communities and an organizational Plaintiff in this case. Since District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro took office, dozens of Silence is Violence clients have been jailed or threatened with jail for declining to meet with prosecutors. Silence is Violence has been forced to redirect resources from their core mission—public advocacy to protect victims and combat violent crime—instead to ensuring that victims of crime are not victimized again by the District Attorney’s Office. Ms. Jackson herself has been threatened on multiple occassions by District Attorney Cannizzaro for criticizing the District Attorney's efforts to protect witnesses and victims.
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Photograph at the top of the page is of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Courthouse (October 2017).