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PJI Fights to Hold Prosecutors Accountable: Research Informs Washington Post Article

Assistant District Attorney Hugo Holland 
(via Washington Post/Scott Clause/The Daily Advertiser via AP) 
 
 

 
          Last week, Radley Balko of the Washington Post did a lengthy review of Holland’s career,  titled “How a fired prosecutor became the most powerful law enforcement official in Louisiana.” The piece used employment records collected by the Promise of Justice Initiative to demonstrate how Holland had secured a number of jobs with “at least 10 parishes” resulting in a salary of “at least $210,000. To put that into perspective, Louisiana’s governor makes $130,000 per year. The chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court makes $167,000. 

          Hugo Holland first received attention in 2012 as one of two prosecutors forced to resign after an investigator was fired for accusing Holland of filing false paperwork to obtain weapons from the Department of Defense.  When it became clear that Holland had authorized the submission of false documents to the federal government, the investigator ultimately received a settlement for wrongful termination.  Alexander Burris, Caddo DA: Settlement in Neighborhood of $447,000.

           The Promise of Justice Initiative began tracking Holland’s work after he was fired. In April of 2015, the Baton Rouge Advocate noted that if it were not for Caddo Parish, and the pre-eminence of two prosecutors – Dale Cox and Hugo Holland, the death penalty would have largely been phased out in Louisiana. Capital Punishment in Caddo Parish Cottage Industry in Louisiana.

            An article from June, 2017 by Jim Mustian of the Baton Rouge Advocate introduced Holland “Meet ‘controversial’ Louisiana prosecutor: an outspoken death penalty champion with cat named after Lee Harvey Oswald.”  James Gill wrote an op ed on the piece, “A Louisiana man, his deadly obsession and why he gets paid handsomely for it.”

           Using documents secured by the Promise of Justice Initiative, the Washington Post article describes how Holland receives payments both to lobby the legislature on behalf of more punitive punishments including retaining the death penalty – and then secures financial benefit for handling death penalty cases.  The article quotes PJI’s Ben Cohen: ““Hugo Holland captures everything that’s wrong with the criminal-justice system in Louisiana…”

           Significantly, the Post article makes clear that while Holland seeks the most punitive sanction for the defendants he prosecutes, he seeks to avoid sanction and responsibility for his own misconduct.  The article observes:
 

Cohen, the Louisiana defense attorney, says it’s a cruel irony for a state so enamored with retributive justice to then go out of its way to excuse rule-breaking by the public officials who administer that justice. “The same people who scream about accountability and personal responsibility when it comes to crimes by [others] are constantly looking for ways to excuse one another for prosecutor misconduct,” he says.
 

            The Washington Post article highlights a series of cases where Holland has withheld favorable evidence from the defense, but avoided sanction from the Bar or the courts.  Included within this series of cases, the article notes Holland’s prosecution of Corey Williams, who was a sixteen year old intellectually disabled child when he was accused of committing capital murder.

            While Williams’ defense attorneys tried to tell the jury that older more savvy teenagers had placed the blame on intellectually disabled Corey Williams, Holland argued that the defense was suggesting the “greatest conspiracy since the murder of JFK.”  The Post article details how Holland was sitting on taped statements of the older teenagers that revealed that even “even the interrogating officers believed at the time that the other teens were framing Williams.” 

PJI continues to seek ways to seek justice and hold prosecutors accountable, both by fighting for people like Corey Williams, and holding prosecutors like Hugo Holland accountable.