CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, June 4, 2007

New Orleans Has A Serious Murder Situation Stemming From Racial and Economic Injustice

From Most New Orleans murders stem from drug trafficking and other criminal endeavors in poor, predominantly African-American communities, along with what one expert called "respect beefs" over wounded pride of the kind once settled with fists.

More than 80 percent of the 162 murder victims last year were black men. More than half of all victims were black men younger than 30, and 29 percent were teenagers. In comparison, 10 white men were killed last year, along with four Hispanic men and three Asian men.

Women, nine black victims and three white victims, comprised just 7 percent of last year's murder victims.

All but five of the 58 suspects police arrested were black men, typically young black men. Overall, police have "cleared" 43 percent of last year's murders, a rate in keeping with the department's historic record. Police consider a case solved when they make an arrest, issue a warrant for a suspect still at large or close a case "by exception," meaning the suspect died, often killed in apparent retaliation for another murder.

Police clearances usually don't translate into convictions, however. District Attorney Eddie Jordan's office accepted only 55 percent of the 42 cases the police have brought so far to prosecutors from last year's homicide pool. Those 23 cases involved 34 murder victims, though the district attorney later dropped one of those cases. If history serves as a guide, many of those accepted cases will flame out before going to trial. One study of the period between October 2003 and September 2004 found that just 12 percent of homicide or attempted murder arrests resulted in convictions.

Though experts say the New Orleans law enforcement establishment certainly could improve, the nature of the typical New Orleans murder presents severe obstacles to police and prosecutors. Murders connected to the drug trade -- by all accounts a substantial portion, if not a majority -- require detectives to penetrate a culture that disdains law enforcement in favor of street justice, sparking periodic cycles of revenge slayings. And in the few cases where witnesses do come forward, they often present credibility problems because of their own criminal records.  Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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