Court Watch NOLA wants judges to stop jailing crime victims, beef up crime lab

NEW ORLEANS - Court Watch NOLA is releasing their report card on the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, along with updates on its employees in various divisions.

The report reveals the shooting rate and murder rate increased in New Orleans while the number of solved murders decreased in 2015 and 2016.

"I think the statistics that we found to be the most surprising was the number of victims who were incarcerated on material witness warrants, the jury demographics, and also the lack of evidence that was used at prosecution," Court Watch NOLA Executive Director Simone Levine said.

One hundred and thirty court watchers visited Orleans Parish Criminal Court over 1,100 times in 2016 to gather data on over 7,000 cases.

Six victims were arrested for failing to prosecute their offender. Court Watch NOLA says while no official study has been conducted thus far, this is one of the largest numbers of material witness warrants that have been issued to their knowledge.

One female victim was held for eight days for failing to cooperate with investigators on a second degree rape and second degree battery case, while a male victim was held for 179 days for an attempted second degree murder and robbery case.

The male victim was also held on a probation violation that was caused by the victim's arrest for failure to testify, according to Court Watch NOLA.

Arresting and incarcerating victims will deeply traumatize an already shattered individual, the watchdog group said.

Among other recommendation, the group wants the District Attorney to discontinue the incarceration of domestic violence and sex crime victims.

Crime Watch NOLA also wants the NOPD crime lab to beef up employee training to strengthen ongoing prosecutions and allocate funds for the payment of forensic expert witnesses for the prosecution.

The group also wants judges to discontinue the use of one-party sidebars, and minimize the number of two-party sidebars in an effort to increase transparency.