District Attorney Ricky Ward
Posted in the New Roads Forum
#1 Feb 24, 2012
A FEW MINUTES WITH Ricky Ward
February 18, 2012 The Advocate
POSITION: District attorney since 1991 for the 18th Judicial District, which encompasses Iberville, Pointe Coupee and West Baton Rouge parishes.
We asked Ward to discuss Louisianas criminal justice system and his political future.
In what ways can the states criminal justice system be improved?
Prosecutors and law enforcement could always have more tools. DNA is processed more quickly than in the past, and newer software is making it easier for agencies to share information. Were learning how to get information from cell phones and computers. That helps with tracking people and finding witnesses and also figuring out just what kind of person we are dealing with.
A common criticism of the legal system is that defendants are treated better and have more rights than victims. How do you respond to that?
I do hear that a lot. It appears often that defendants have more rights and that victims have very limited rights. Louisiana has the Victims Rights Act, but it doesnt have teeth. I try to get as much input from victims as I can, but they cant dictate to law enforcement what they want the end result of a case to be. For example, if someone hits another person and knocks out a tooth, the victim cant demand that their attacker be charged with attempted murder. Weve come a ways, though. Victims of some crimes have the right to be notified of all hearings, motions and for the trial. Victims can give an impact statement if the defendant is convicted, but they dont have the right to demand a judge give the maximum sentence. Their only recourse is to criticize the system.
Defendants dont go to trial until several years after their crime. Why does the court system move so slowly at times?
I agree that the process is too slow. Sometimes delays are necessary if evidence has to be processed. If you dont have a good DNA sample, it has to be outsourced from the State Police lab to another lab. Also, the criminal justice system leans toward allowing the defense all the time it needs to get ready so as to protect a defendants constitutional rights. In this district, we have four judges handling criminal cases. Each judge has one jury term per month because they handle misdemeanors and juvenile cases and civil cases in the other three weeks. That leaves us with five days each month to dispose of any felony criminal cases. And if the defense says theyre not ready, we cant go to trial the next week; we have to wait until the next month. If we can get a murder case to trial within two years, were doing pretty good. It would be easy to speed things up in my district if we added two full-time criminal or civil judges. The Judicial Council has to approve that, but they dont think the numbers justify that at this point in time.
What is your opinion of the various groups working to get people off death row?
Sometimes those groups have legitimate functions. Other times, the issues they bring up border on ridiculous. We get bombarded with unbelievable demands, and we have to take people away from their normal duties to handle these appeals. The appellate process is expensive, time-consuming and cumbersome. The groups you referred to dont work for free, and for the most part, are paid with money from the state. I believe in the death penalty, but by the time someone is put to death, no one remembers what they did, so the death penalty has little impact on the criminal element. Its not our only consideration, but I think many district attorneys would agree that we have to take into account how much it will cost the taxpayers and how time consuming it will be to pursue the death penalty in each individual case.
Do you plan on running for another term?
Yes! There is a saying among district attorneys that we have the greatest job on earth. It really is true. I enjoy it and hope the people of my district give me the honor and privilege of being their D.A. for another term.
#2 Feb 24, 2012
ugh dude, u trying to rite a book, like am i suppose to read all that?
#3 Mar 9, 2012
GO RICKY WARD!
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