Our constitution guarantees fairness and even-handedness, yet too often, our criminal justice system fails to protect the constitutional rights of the accused. Bias, prosecutorial misconduct, and poor representation by defense lawyers infect outcomes, and Louisiana courts and prosecutors in particular have a long history of violating constitutional rights.
PJI works to hold prosecutors and courts accountable for violations resulting in injustice by exposing and addressing violations of constitutional rights in individual cases. While we cannot represent everyone who suffers injustice, we help prisoners gather the documents necessary to becoming their own advocates against injustice. We also provide representation and friend-of-the-court briefs in a limited number of cases.
Injustice serves no one. Innocent people languish in prison while the guilty go free. Bias in the prosecution of crimes results in disparate treatment of African-American, mentally ill, and intellectually disabled citizens. Ineffective defense representation deprives juries of facts necessary to reach just verdicts. The same is true when prosecutors deny the accused access to favorable evidence. The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly declared that Louisiana’s prosecutors have withheld evidence that may prove innocence.
Our work with prisoners is spearheaded by Calvin Duncan, whose talent and commitment earned him a 2013 Soros Justice Fellowship to carry out his mission. Mr. Duncan experienced the injustice of Louisiana’s criminal justice system first-hand, spending over 28 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Mr. Duncan now devotes himself to helping prisoners overcome barriers to challenging wrongful convictions by providing them with:
- Legal documentation
- Better-equipped prison libraries with up-to-date legal information
- Access to and review of police and district attorney files