return to press room

FROM: The Advocate

Brady to hear juvenile prison case Friday


Attorneys for the state have asked U.S. District Judge James Brady to stop juvenile court judges in 12 jurisdictions from deciding if they should pull their juvenile offenders from the Bridge City and Tallulah prisons.

The proceedings are pending in juvenile courts in East Baton Rouge, Orleans, Caddo, Lafayette, Evangeline, Calcasieu, Jefferson, Concordia and Lafourche parishes and city courts in Plaquemine, Rayne and Hammond.

Brady has scheduled a hearing on the issue Friday morning.

The Orleans Parish case involves the Tallulah prison, where defense attorneys are trying to get four juveniles removed after a fifth juvenile had his jaw broken by a corrections officer.

The other cases came in the aftermath of the May 1 death of inmate Emmanuel Narcisse, 17, of Harvey at the Bridge City prison during a scuffle with a corrections officer.

The officer, 24, who had been on the job only two weeks and whose identity has not been revealed, remains on paid leave while the joint investigation by the Sheriff's Office, FBI and State Police continues, according to federal court testimony Tuesday.

Newell Normand, chief criminal deputy of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, said investigators are waiting on transcripts of their interviews before deciding if they need to reinterview any of the witnesses.

He said they'll bring their findings first to Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick Jr., who will consult with U.S. Attorney Jim Letten of New Orleans.

David Utter, executive director of the nonprofit Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, said even if the officer is cleared of criminal wrongdoing, the state should not allow him to return to work at any juvenile prison. Brady concurred.

Assistant Corrections Secretary Elijah Lewis said no decision has been made about the officer's assignment, but he may be placed at an adult prison.

Prison and state health officials also promised to provide additional post-traumatic stress counseling to the juveniles after Utter and defense attorney Keith Nordyke of Baton Rouge said the juveniles and families they've spoken with recently remain distressed.

Meanwhile, the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana filed 15 emergency modification orders May 1 asking various juvenile court judges to determine if juvenile offenders from their courts should remain at Bridge City.

Attorney Rick Curry alleges in a May 9 motion on behalf of Corrections that many of the juveniles Utter and his staff claimed have suffered trauma from the May 1 incident were not even at the prison at the time.

Curry is the special assistant state attorney general whose law firm, McGlinchey Stafford, represents the state in the prison civil-rights litigation in federal court.

Utter said Tuesday his office hurriedly filed those motions based on their own database of juveniles from the prison who had contacted their office in the past for legal representation.

"The motions were designed to alert the courts that they had a kid at Bridge City and there was a death," Utter said. "We didn't have access to current (prison) rosters."

Curry also argues that the 15 motions violate the settlement of the federal civil-rights lawsuits over conditions at the state-run juvenile prisons at Bridge City, Tallulah, East Baton Rouge and Monroe.

He uses the same argument in asking Brady to stop Orleans Parish Juvenile Court Judge Mark Doherty's hearing on whether to remove four juveniles from the Tallulah prison.

Curry said the hearing in Doherty's court has "exploded into a 41/2-week trial" about conditions at the Tallulah prison, officially called the Swanson Correctional Center for Youth-Madison Parish Unit.

That trial began March 31 and went into recess on April 17. It is set to continue June 9, Curry wrote.

The state has already produced more than 14,000 documents to the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, which is representing the four juveniles, Curry wrote.

"JJPL has made it clear -- through its questioning of witnesses thus far, the witness lists, the exhibit lists, and requests for additional discovery -- that its case is an orchestrated attempt to show that the general conditions at SCCY-Madison are unconstitutional," Curry wrote.

If that's the case, then the hearing may violate Brady's March 21 admonition, when Curry once before asked the federal judge to bar the Doherty hearing, that he will not "stand for a relitigation of the issues that were settled" in the federal civil-rights case.

At that time, Brady allowed Utter and his staff to proceed with the case in Doherty's court.



return to press room