BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - As protests continue across the nation, East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore found himself the target of demonstrations Thursday, June 11.
Protesters marched in front of his house demanding justice for black men who have been killed by police, notably calling Moore out for not prosecuting the officers involved with the death of Alton Sterling.
Moore recused himself from the Sterling case, citing a conflict of interest as he had a relationship with the family of Blane Salamoni, the officer who reportedly pulled the trigger.
“I’m not sure how informed they were about what the issues were. I’ve seen or heard some of them,” Moore said. “We’re always listening as an office here. Me personally, I’m always listening to any issues or complaints that someone raises and examine them and if there needs to be change, change as is appropriate.”
SEE THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH HILLAR MOORE BELOW
Moore says he understands there are changes that need to be made, specifically focusing on the rates of incarceration for African Americans in Louisiana.
“Surely you have many more black males and black females, African America males and females, that are arrested, that are stopped and are placed in jail,” he said. “The question is how does the police come into contact with these people? Is it because police are over policing a particular area, is it because they’re called there because of other crimes? I don’t know, but that is surely something the police and the whole system has to look at because once there’s an arrest made, it surely comes to us and we have to take some action or not on prosecution.”
Moore says once the case does reach his office though, his prosecutors need to understand the circumstances, especially for nonviolent crimes, then determine the best course of action.
“We don’t want a sentence of 40 years when two to five is adequate,” he said. “We don’t want a sentence of imprisonment if probation or other services can handle that.”
Right now, Moore says his office is underfunded and understaffed, meaning he doesn’t have the resources necessary to dedicate the time needed for each case.
“We’re underfunded and understaffed just like the public defenders office is and I think that’s an issue the state has to deal with, and has to deal with how are we going to fund the criminal justice system. Do you fund it on the back of a defendant or do you fund it through some other means? And right now, we’re funding it on the backs of defendants largely.”
The district attorney has taken measures to improve the “system” during his 12 years in office, most notably his efforts to expedite the process of booking, charging, and arraignment.
“One of the things that we really wanted to change were the reports that we received from law enforcement agencies,” he said. “In the past, they would take a week, two weeks, three or four weeks to receive regular reports. With a lot of hard work from all the local agencies, we are now able to receive at least the initial report to make some kind of screening decision within 24 hours.”
During the legislative session, he also worked with lawmakers to pass the Clean Slate Act, which expunges the records of nonviolent offenders after a designated period of time has passed.
“Although it’s not yet funded, the data part of it, it’s going to hopefully make the expungement process obsolete and just automatically keep from the view of any employer convictions that are so old they shouldn’t matter,” he said.
Despite his efforts, Moore says he admits more needs to be done and he wants the public’s help.
“We as an office always want to do better and be the best and always consider what the people’s concerns are,” Moore said.
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