Head of the Metropolitan Crime Commission says his group is interested in a possible study of the St. Bernard Parish criminal justice system

Posted: January 23rd, 2015 | Filed under: News Releases

Rafael Goyeneche III, president of the Metrpolitan Crime Commission, speaks to the St. Bernard Chamber of Commerce

Rafael Goyeneche III, president of the Metrpolitan Crime Commission, speaks to the St. Bernard Chamber of Commerce

The president of the prestigious Metropolitan Crime Commission in New Orleans said in Chalmette his group is exploring the possibility of undertaking a study of the St. Bernard Parish criminal justice system, as it has done in other parishes.

Rafael Goyeneche III, head of the 62-year-old citizens’ organization dedicated to exposing public corruption and reducing crime in the area, said at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon the MCC is discussing doing such a study. It would track arrests – especially felonies – through prosecution by the district attorney’s office and adjudication of cases by judges.

Similar studies have been done in Orleans and Jefferson parishes and the Crime Commission is discussing doing the same in St. Tammany as well as St. Bernard parishes, said Goyeneche.

The purpose of such research is to “raise the level of accountability and efficiency in the criminal justice system,’’ he said.

The non-profit MCC is known as a public watchdog and through its programs it holds public officials and employees accountable for corrupt, unethical, and wasteful practices as well as works to enhance the safety of the community, he said.

Goyenche elaborated on the possible study after his luncheon address, saying his group is interested in the project if there is a funding source available.

“It is a way of determining how well the criminal justice system is doing.’’ Goyeneche said of such an analysis. “You are talking about a more efficient criminal justice system in which each component of the system can be held accountable to the public.

“It introduces transparency to the system, identifies strengths and weakness that can be made stronger,’’ he said.

The group would issue a criminal justice accountability report after the study, Goyeneche said.

“We would track arrests and break down the data by misdemeanors and felonies.’’ he said. “We fellow felony arrests and determine their outcome, including the number accepted by the District Attorney’s Office and what happens from there.

“The number of arrests being made doesn’t mean anything until you know the outcomes,’’ Goyeneche said. “The objective is to convert a felony arrest to a felony conviction,’’ rather than to have felonies reduced to misdemeanors.

The project would also track performance of the judiciary.

A project would study each judge’s caseload, the percentage of cases cleared over a year and case processing time.

“From that comes information on how well a judge is moving a docket,’’ Goyeneche said.

When cases move too slowly it affects the whole system, from the law enforcement end, the prosecutors’ end and public defenders, Goyeneche said. “Justice delayed is justice denied.’’

Goyeneche, in his luncheon talk, also said St. Bernard doesn’t experience the level of violence seen in some parishes and that primarily its problem is property crime fueled by drug abusers stealing to get money to buy drugs, which is being seen across the nation.

Goyeneche’s group has been active over the years in receiving tips about public corruption and turning information over to investigative agencies. But he said it may be that since Hurricane Katrina there is less public tolerance of corruption and public officials are taking their cue from that.

Tips about public corruption have slowed, he said.