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Trial for recusal of Iberia Parish judge enters second day

Court heard more testimony from district attorney's staff who allege judicial misconduct
Judge Lori Landry.jpg
Posted at 7:11 PM, Dec 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-10 20:11:00-05

NEW IBERIA, La. — The bench trial for the hundreds of motions to recuse an Iberia Parish judge continued on Tuesday with testimony from several more prosecutors who allege judicial misconduct took place during some of their cases.

The nearly 500 motions to recuse 16th Judicial District Court Judge Lori Landry filed by the District Attorney’s Office accuse her of threatening behavior toward prosecutors and of having a bias in court against the 16th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

Landry has previously refused to recuse herself, which prompted a ruling from the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal that such motions to recuse must be heard by another judge.

Ad Hoc Judge Harry F. Randow heard testimony from assistant district attorneys working in the Iberia Parish courthouse who have had cases tried under Landry.

Assistant District Attorney Ashley Hammons testified that during a pre-trial conference in April 2018 in St. Martin Parish, Landry had repeatedly asked “What’s the difference?” in regard to different plea offers for one of Hammons’ cases where a white defendant with five violent charges was given four years of hard labor. However, an offer for 10 years at hard labor was given to a black defendant with similar charges being prosecuted by another ADA.

Hammons also testified that Landry advised her that she should consult with other ADAs before extending plea offers so that the plea offers from the district attorney’s office were not “inconsistent.

Hammons stated that she was upset because she felt a burden was being placed on her to contact other ADAs to make sure that all of their pleas were consistent. She added that Landry made her feel like she was doing something wrong in her plea offers.

“I don’t think an ADA should call every other ADA in the district to make sure their pleas are consistent with other similar cases,” said Hammons. “There’s too many factors in each case.”

ADA Craig Colwart then took the stand to testify about one of his encounters with Landry involving a probation reduction hearing in December 2017.

Colwart claimed that Landry repeatedly cut him off during that hearing and would not let him speak when he attempted to introduce evidence of new charges against the defendant to have their bond removed.

Colwart stated that Landry claimed that he did not have the right to present new evidence in the case, which Colwart disagreed with.

He added that Landry used her judicial discretion to terminate the defendant’s probation as satisfactory to the court, which did not allow Colwart to appeal even though he had evidence that the defendant had committed additional crimes that would have affected their bond.

The trial, which began on Monday, is expected to conclude by the end of the week.