Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $1,400,000)
This grant seeks funding to continue to improve the SAKI model in New Orleans. Although New Orleans has made strides in policy and practice, the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office (OPDA) needs further support to continue and build upon the current program and Vertical Prosecution Unit (VPU). Most of the cases reviewed by the OPDA SAKI unit have multiple victims and charges associated with them. Many defendants prosecuted by OPDA SAKI have extensive criminal histories that require intensive investigation, resulting in the state interviewing and producing multiple victims of and witnesses to additional crimes by the defendant before and during a trial.
The Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office and the New Orleans City Council have also worked to implement rapid DNA testing at the Orleans Criminal Justice Center, the city’s only jail. This rapid testing will mean faster responses from CODIS and expedited ability to address cases. OPDA SAKI is preparing for this implementation because it will increase the number of DNA hit cases found.
The funds from SAKI Purpose Area 4 will be used to screen and prosecute cold case and CODIS hit sexual assault cases, entering all criteria cases into ViCAP. OPDA intends to create a ViCAP lead position within the SAKI unit who is tasked with ensuring that all criteria cases are entered in a timely manner.
Funds will also be used to bring victims to New Orleans for trial and, on occasion, take staff to victims and witnesses for interviews in their locations. This will allow the SAKI unit to establish important relationships with victims and witnesses being asked to relive traumatic events from many years ago. Similarly, OPDA SAKI is also requesting funds to perpetuate testimony for ill victims and witnesses who may be unable to attend trial later.