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Sheriff calls deputies back to Justice Center after 2 deaths over weekend - trials could be delayed

The move means that there will be no in-person trials or court proceedings until the court security situation can be addressed.

NEW ORLEANS — Following the death of two inmates since Friday, Orleans Parish Sheriff Susan Hutson said she is calling back deputies from their posts at several locations including the Criminal District Court in an effort to secure the Orleans Parish Justice Center.

The move means that there will be no in-person trials or court proceedings until the court security situation can be addressed.

Deputies are being called back from the Sheriff’s Office Training Academy, the Transportation Division, the Kitchen Warehouse along with Criminal and Civil District courts.

Calling back the deputies will cause Criminal Court to go virtual until they can return to normal operations, which could lead to delays in trials or other official proceedings that can’t be done virtually. 

"Criminal District Court was shocked by the news received this evening from Sheriff Susan Hutson that deputies would be removed from the courthouse leaving the court with no security for approximately two weeks," said Criminal Court Judicial Administrator Rob Kazik. 

He noted that the court has several jury trials and pertinent hearings scheduled this week. 

In addition, Civil District Court will begin the week in session, but may also move to virtual operations. Both courts are already trying to make up a backlog of cases that weren't held during the height of the COVID pandemic. 

Orleans Parish Sheriff Susan Hutson said she has talked to Chief Judge Robin Pittman of Criminal District Court, District Attorney Jason Williams and Mayor LaToya Cantrell about the move, which she says is to deal with an understaffed force.

“Losing even one life is one too many. A loss of life in OJC will no longer be treated as simply the byproduct of running a jail – not on my watch,” she said in a statement. “I came into this office with a jail that was severely understaffed and unsafe. My order calling our deputies in to secure the jail is a temporary measure that I have put in place to protect the lives of every person inside the jail.”

A man who had been in the justice center was pronounced dead Saturday following a fight that took place on Friday. That fight involved four people and sent three of them to the hospital – one of them in critical condition. That person died Saturday from their injuries.

On Sunday, a man who was in custody in the justice center died of an apparent suicide, according to a statement from justice center officials. The man was, identified as a 46-year-old who had been booked into the justice center on Friday for an outstanding warrant in Jefferson Parish. The warrant was for theft of over $25,000, possession of oxycodone and possession of drug paraphernalia. A statement from the justice center said the man who died had a traumatic brain injury and a cervical spinal fracture.

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