Louisiana Capital Assistance Center

 



 Louisiana
 Capital
 Assistance
 Center
  A Non-Profit Law Office


 
 
Contact Us:

 636 Baronne Street
 New Orleans La 70113  USA
 Ph. +1 (504) 558 9867
 Fax. +1 (504) 558 0378
 
info@thejusticecenter.org


 

 

 

History

The LCAC was founded in 1993 as the first law office in Louisiana representing indigent capital defendants exclusively.

The LCAC began by representing a handful of indigent capital defendants in Calcasieu Parish, near Texas. In the context of these cases, the office frequently partnered with private defense counsel in litigating issues of adequate funding for counsel appointed to capital cases, as well as for necessary expert  and investigatory services. This litigation culminated in the Louisiana Supreme Court cases State v. Wigley and then, a decade later, State v. Citizen, which together provide a mechanism to ensure that capital cases do not proceed without adequate funding for these purposes.

Another long-term focus of the office has been racial discrimination in the prosecution of capital cases. In September 2003, the LCAC issued a report on the racially disparate use of peremptory challenges by the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office and the under representation of African American citizens on juries in that parish. The report demonstrated that the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s office historically and consistently struck African-American prospective jurors at approximately three times the rate of white jurors. The data for this legal action was built via countless staff and volunteer hours spent in acquiring and analyzing old court files covering eight years of trials in Jefferson Parish. The project was expanded and formed the basis of an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court in Louisiana v. Snyder.  More recently, the LCAC partnered with Reprieve to complete a ten-year study of racial discrimination by prosecutors in Caddo Parish, Louisiana.   The resulting report demonstrated that prosecutors struck black jurors at three times the rate of white jurors and spawned a civil rights lawsuit by the Macarthur Justice Center.

In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. The city of New Orleans was mandatorily evacuated. The LCAC staff quickly regathered and took on two significant challenges. The first was to take on the representation of a Texas defendant with an execution date in November 2005, who had received no representation for years. The other was to assist with the representation of thousands of prisoners who had been evacuated from Orleans and surrounding parishes to far flung areas of the state, without any plan of release. Many of these individuals had been arrested on misdemeanor charges and were then held for months without access to court. The LCAC, in concert with others, forced the courts to address this extraordinary injustice by filing mass habeas actions. Hundreds of prisoners were released as a result.

In 2006, the LCAC and the Capital Appeals Project (CAP) began the Motion for New Trial Project, with the goal of providing representation to all defendants sentenced to death in the investigation, drafting and filing of a substantive motion for new trial. Prior to the Project, the average motion for new trial filing in Louisiana was 2 pages, even though motion for new trial involves a uniquely favorable standard of review and the chance to introduce favorable evidence into the record prior to the case being heard on direct appeal. Since the project has begun, the LCAC has been involved in almost all motions for new trial for death sentenced defendants in Louisiana, successfully overturning two death sentences.

On January 14, 2013, the director of the LCAC, Richard Bourke, argued Jonathan Boyer’s case in the U.S. Supreme Court. The LCAC, along with local private counsel, represented Mr. Boyer in Calcasieu Parish at the trial level. The state refused to provide funding for experts or for Mr. Boyer’s private counsel. As a result, Mr. Boyer had sat in jail for  years without a full legal team able to proceed with his case.  The LCAC argued that this delay, caused by the lack of adequate state funding, should be held against the state for the purposes of a speedy trial analysis, even if the district attorney himself was not to blame for the lack of funding. Post-argument, a bare majority of the Court declined to consider the case, ruling that the writ had been improvidently granted.  A vehement four-justice dissent, authored by Justice Sotomayor  opined that such delay should be held against the state for the purposes of a speedy trial analysis. In 2014, in State v. Noel, the Louisiana Fourth Circuit adopted the ruling of the dissent in a case upholding the speedy trial rights of an Orleans pre-trial detainee whose case was delayed due to the inability of the state to adequately fund the public defenders office.

The LCAC and the building it owns in downtown New Orleans called “The Justice Center” have functioned as an incubator for progressive criminal justice organizations over the years. In 2001, the Capital Appeals Project (CAP) was formed from existing LCAC staff. CAP represents capital clients on direct appeal and in post-conviction and continues to be co-located with the LCAC in The Justice Center. A Fighting Chance – an organization of capital mitigators later known as NOLA Investigates – was started in 2002 by LCAC mitigation specialists. The Innocence Project - New Orleans began at The Justice Center over fifteen years ago and moved into its own location in 2008. Reprieve U.S. is the sister office to Reprieve UK and Reprieve Australia, which provide volunteers to U.S. death penalty offices; it began at The Justice Center, where it was co-located with the LCAC until moving its offices to New York in 2013.

The LCAC’s “client welfare project” was developed by LCAC staff to generate donations and resources to respond to the non-legal needs of our pre-trial and sentenced clients and their families. This function has since been assumed by the Promise of Justice Initiative, a new organization dedicated to the civil and human rights of our incarcerated clients, also co-located in The Justice Center. 

 

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