Jordan the Hero

Often there’s little glory in doing the right thing. It can’t be easy to step down from a powerful political office. But Eddie Jordan did just that today. If we take him at his word, he did it for the good of New Orleans.

In January I said, “Shame on you, Mayor Nagin, Superintendent Riley, District Attorney Jordan. You have really let us down.” Months later I joined other local activists in calling for Jordan’s resignation.

In spite of all that, I am not jubilant over Jordan’s resignation. I can find no joy in another person’s pain. And surely this must be a painful moment for Jordan.

Recall that Jordan entered with impressive credentials. As US Attorney he’d prosecuted former governor Edwin Edwards. He was the first black DA in the history of New Orleans. Furthermore, he had an unparalleled flair for old-fashioned haberdashery.

But something wasn’t working for Jordan. The breaking point for me was when he dropped a quintuple murder case under extremely questionable circumstances. Some people say he was played by the NOPD, but I’m not sure I buy that. Then again, what do I know? Only this: something wasn’t working.

Jordan had a rare opportunity to make a painful choice for the greater good. Few thought he’d actually do it. But he did. You can view him as a sacrificial lamb if you like, but I prefer to think of him in a nobler light, as somebody who did the right thing even though it must have been difficult.

It must be noted that Jordan’s resignation doesn’t improve anything in itself. But to remain in office was detrimental to the recovery of New Orleans. Therefore, I salute Eddie Jordan as a hero, not for what he did as DA, but for being brave enough to confront his weakness and stand down for the greater good.

Incredible Headlines

I was amazed by the front page of the paper this morning. Apparently a robbery suspect took refuge at the house of District Attorney Eddie Jordan, before rushing off to shoot a cop and his wife. This happened earlier in the month but is only coming to light now.

Separate but related story: The D.A. owes almost $4 million to the people he wrongfully fired when he was elected, and now the City Council is saying the city can’t afford it. I was one of those people picketing in the rain for Jordan to resign but I almost feel sorry for him now. Almost.

Final knock-your-socks-off story: State Senator Derrick Shepherd comes out swinging against the FBI, who interrogated him and insinuated he’s been doing some money laundering. I’ve held a low opinion of Shepherd ever since he embarrassed the state with his “Saggy Pants” bill, but his counter-offensive against the FBI was truly impressive. Everybody’s in a tizzy because he says the feds wanted him to cough up dirt on Mayor Nagin and State Rep. Karen Carter. He said “hell no” and that’s when they started sweating him.

Update: Listen to Jordan and his girlfriend give their side of the story on the radio. (Hat tip, Varg.)

Another Failed Prosecution

Remember that retired teacher who got beat up on Bourbon Street shortly after Katrina? Sure you do, it was on television all over the world, a blatant example of police brutality and a huge embarrassment to the city of New Orleans.

Well, the latest news is that the accused officer was acquitted.

Some will say that Judge Frank Marullo has a pro-police bias. But I note the following from a Crouere’s Corner:

In the past, Marullo had legendary conflicts with former District Attorney Harry Connick and some believed that he was one of the more liberal judges on the criminal court bench.

And I’m sure some will say Marullo is dirty — nothing would surprise me.

But I am left to wonder about the prosecutor. This seems like such an easy case. It seems like another example of a botched prosecution.

We already know that District Attorney’s office can’t handle the job. Some of Eddie Jordan’s defenders have stuck by him out of a false hope that he’s going to clean up the police department. Unfortunately, he can’t, and this acquittal is further evidence of that. He’ll blow the Danziger case too. Mark my words.

Anyway you slice it, this is an ugly case. The other officer involved, who was also being prosecuted, killed himself last month.

And as for Stewart Smith, the third cop, who tried to stop the Associated Press from videotaping the incident? Charges against him were dismissed because the D.A. missed the deadline.

Leadership

“This is an attack on the black leadership.”

So said Malcolm Suber yesterday at the New Orleans City Council, defending District Attorney Eddie Jordan.

Personally I think Mr. Suber is confusing leadership with authority.

When I think of black leadership in New Orleans, elected officials are not foremost in my mind. Instead, I think of people like Malik Rahim, who founded Common Ground; Patricia Jones, executive director of Lower Ninth Ward NENA; LaToya Cantrell, president of Broadmoor Civic Improvement Association; and — yes — Malcolm Suber, who has organized the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund.

And there are many others, grassroots heroes who are working for the recovery of New Orleans.

But please don’t cite District Attorney Eddie Jordan as an example of black leadership. Mr. Jordan is in a position of authority, true. But that does not equate to leadership. To the contrary, Mr. Jordan has betrayed the (largely black) community that elected him.

By way of contrast, consider the actions yesterday of State Representatives Cedric Richmond and J. P. Morrell, both active in the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus. Although they stopped short of calling for Jordan to resign, they went public with their disappointment in his performance and threatened him with impeachment if he doesn’t do better.

They put their own reputations at risk for the sake of the community. That’s true leadership. Kudos to them.

Scapegoat

Today Shelley Midura bravely repeated her call for Eddie Jordan to resign. Only this time Mr. Jordan was right there and he answered back.

Jordan said she was trying to make him a scapegoat.

I understand where Jordan is coming from. After all, there’s plenty of other people screwing up in our government. Why is he getting all the pressure?

The answer is because he’s screwed up so badly and so publicly that his removal has seemed to become a possibility, however remote.

I still believe Jordan could be pressured to resign if other elected officials follow Midura’s lead and present a united front. Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be happening. Perhaps citizens can still unite to the same effect. Perhaps it will require another massive bungle on Jordan’s part.

If and when that happens, if Jordan is forced to resign for his glaring incompetence, then I don’t think he should be considered a scapegoat. I think he should be considered an example.

Perhaps that’s why politicians are afraid of calling for his resignation — they’re afraid of the precedent. They’re afraid they might be next.

Love, Rage and Hope

What motivates people to get up at 5:00 in the morning and go out to hold a sign in the rain?

Jordan Protest

Love, rage and hope. Love for the city we call home. Rage at elected officials who are unable to perform their jobs. Hope that, despite everything, we might see a better day, where government authorities are held accountable.

Our message was simple: Eddie Jordan must go. He should step down immediately. He has lost the confidence of the public. As I said to the media, “You can’t screw up this bad and not be held to account.”

Update: Maitri is compiling links of media coverage.

Citizens Demand Jordan’s Resignation Monday Morning

This just in via Karen Gadbois…

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEW ORLEANS CITIZENS TAKE TO THE STREETS TO DEMAND
THE RESIGNATION OF DISTRICT ATTORNEY EDDIE JORDAN

New Orleans citizens, fed up with the resurgence of violent crime in their city, will stage a protest in front of the Cabildo on Jackson Square on Monday, July 16 at 6 a.m. to demand the resignation of District Attorney Eddie Jordan.

Although every component of the city’s criminal justice system has been in disarray since Hurricane Katrina, the district attorney’s office is widely seen as the biggest obstacle to reform because of its pattern of not pursuing charges.

In just the past two weeks, the D.A.’s office has dropped murder charges against suspects in two high-profile murder cases: that of Dinerral Shavers, gunned down in his car, and last summer’s quintuple murder in Central City. In both cases, the D.A.’s office cited lack of witnesses as the reason for the dismissals. However, in the Shavers case, there were other witnesses and evidence, inexplicably not used; and in the Central City murders, New Orleans police were able to locate the supposedly un-findable witness within a matter of hours of learning about the dismissal.

These incidents come on the heels of a protest march in January, in which 5000 New Orleanians took to the streets to demand that city officials address the rampant violence that had taken over the city. Notably, although mayor Ray Nagin and Superintendent of Police Warren Riley attended, Mr. Jordan did not. At that time, Mr. Jordan claimed a 92% conviction rate, although he declined to provide statistics on the number of cases he chooses not to pursue, raising questions as to the validity of the 92% figure he provided.

In the past, Mr. Jordan has shown disdain for anyone questioning the actions of his agency. Most notably, he stormed out of an Nightline interview with ABC’s Brian Ross when Ross pressed him about whether his office had performed as it should.

It appears that Mr. Jordan has lost the confidence not only of the citizenry, but of his fellow politicians as well. Mayor Nagin released a statement last week condemning the D.A.’s office for its “a disturbing pattern in which the DA dismisses charges without securing assistance from NOPD or any other entity in the criminal justice system.” Councilwoman Shelley Midura has publicly called for Mr. Jordan’s resignation, saying, “I no longer believe you have the consent and support from the public required to perform your duties adequately.”

Note: ABC News/Good Morning America is conducting a “town hall meeting” with Senator John Edwards. The town hall will take place on Monday, July 16th and hosted live by Diane Sawyer in the Cabildo in the French Quarter from 6:00am to 8:00am Central Time.

Update: The organizers add:

We hope that you’ll participate in this peaceful demonstration. Those interested should be in front of the Cabildo at 5:30 a.m. on Monday (to catch the live broadcast of Good Morning America). We ask that you bring signs and wear something white. For further information, please email [email protected] And please encourage your friends to attend!

Bloodletting

These lyrics keep going through my head.

I’m on the creep, with no sleep
I ain’t trynna rest till the enemy six feet
It’s game time, and I’m ready to play
Gimme my remote and my remote is my K
I spray with it, I’m from uptown
I gotta stay wit it
When we murder, we know how to get away wit it
We do our slick, one shot to the head is how we slank a bitch

— B.G. “My World – I Want It” from 2004’s Life After Cash Money

Yeah, he said it. “When we murder, we know how to get away wit it.” Some people would latch on to these words and think the words themselves are the problem, but of course that’s ass-backwards. B.G. is reporting on the situation in his hometown of New Orleans. The real problem is the society wherein murder is an acceptable strategy and the system wherein one can so easily murder and “get away wit it.”

I’m not a vengeful person. I’m not a law-and-order crusader. I am critical of the whole orientation of our criminal justice system.

But I also subscribe to the radical notion that murderers should not go free.

It seems that the District Attorney Eddie Jordan is unable to do his job. Dropping charges against an accused quintuple-murderer is just the latest and most glaring example — the last straw. As a reminder, five young men were slaughtered in Central City last year, and it made headlines around the world. The case was dropped earlier this week because the only witness had “disappeared.” When that news came to light, the police promptly produced the witness, who is willing to testify. The mind boggles.

It surpasses my understanding why Jordan is screwing up so badly, but I really don’t care whether he’s incompetent, corrupt or just plain evil. I don’t care. He just needs to go. It’s entirely possible that Jordan could be replaced by someone just as bad as he is. But the consequence of someone screwing up like this and staying in office is surely even worse.

People, it’s time to rise up. Tell your elected officials to join together and pressure Jordan to resign. If our authorities won’t do this in the next days, then grassroots organizations need to take the extreme step of supporting a national boycott of New Orleans. I think that’s the only thing that will show we’re serious.

I hate to use a violent metaphor, but blood must be let. If Jordan isn’t purged, we should threaten to open our own veins, which is exactly what calling for a boycott would be.

Midura to Jordan: Please Resign

Shelley Midura of the New Orleans City Council has asked our Distict Attorney Eddie Jordan to step down. I’m going to reproduce it here in full because her staff sent it to me directly (along with many others I’m sure) so I can claim as direct a line as the mainstream media:

July 12, 2007
Eddie Jordan
District Attorney
1340 Poydras Street
Suite 700
New Orleans, LA 70112

Dear Mr. Jordan:

I am writing to you today to respectfully request that you resign from the office of Orleans Parish District Attorney.

I have no doubts about your intentions or your dedication or your character. By all accounts you are a fine man. But the job of District Attorney is an admittedly difficult one with heavy responsibility and requires more than most fine men are capable of. After the events of the last 48 hours, which have eroded the public’s confidence in your ability to carry out the responsibilities of the District Attorney, I am asking that you resign from office. An elected official’s legitimacy and moral authority to govern is derived from the consent of the governed. I no longer believe you have the consent and support from the public required to perform your duties adequately.

I do not know that there is any excuse for dropping charges against a quintuple murderer without a thorough exhaustion of all possibilities to prevent such a thing from happening. Months ago you and Superintendent Riley pledged to the City Council several reforms and improvements in your lines of communication to ensure that lack of coordination between your offices would no longer lead to dropped cases against those who pose serious threats to our public safety. It has become all too clear that you have been unable to hold up your end of this bargain. Mr. Jordan, you must know as well as any of your fellow New Orleanians the great urgency our city feels in combating the violent crime problem. We have lost the room for these kinds of error. I thank you for your service and your efforts as District Attorney, yet I maintain my request on behalf of my constituents that you resign your office as soon as possible.
Sincerely,

Shelley Midura

cc: Mayor C. Ray Nagin
New Orleans City Council

Midura has no authority over Jordan. As far as I know, Jordan answers only to the voters. Therefore Midura is exceeding her authority here. She’s sticking her neck out, taking a risk. She may pay a price for it. So… is she merely pandering to her constituents, or is this an exercise of true leadership? I tend to think it’s the latter. Big props to Midura for saying what needs to be said. I’m not in her district, but she’s representin’ for me.

Endless Outrages

I was just talking to a lady who works a janitorial detail here at the University. Her son, Jermaine Wise, was murdered last Mardi Gras by none other than B Stupid, aka Ivory Harris. Remember him? He was public enemy #1 until he got arrested March 20th. She pointed out he’s being charged with second degree murder, which she didn’t understand since it was apparently a premeditated slaying. There’s a witness to this murder who is actually willing to testify (a rarity) and who is being protected by the D.A. Here’s what really got me. The guard assigned by the D.A. to protect this witness attempted to rape her. I’m at a loss for words. Somehow “outrageous” seems inadequate.