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After A Murder Conviction is Reversed, Police Chief Vows to Watch Defendant ‘Til the Day I Die’

Did a Louisiana police chief and a prosecutor cross a line when they issued televised threats to a man who'd just been granted relief by a federal appeals court in a child killing?

Ricky Langley, Louisiana man whose second-degree-murder conviction was just declared invalid by a federal appellate court
Texas Moratorium Network/Flickr

After A Murder Conviction is Reversed, Police Chief Vows to Watch Defendant ‘Til the Day I Die’

Did a Louisiana police chief and a prosecutor cross a line when they issued televised threats to a man who'd just been granted relief by a federal appeals court in a child killing?

A Louisiana police chief stared into the television camera and issued a warning to a man whose conviction in a decades-old child killing had just been reversed by a federal court: “Ricky, listen to me you little piece of shit,” he said, “’til the day I die, I’ll be watching you.”

In a recent interview with KPLC, the Lake Charles NBC affiliate, Lake Charles Police Chief Don Dixon made the threats against Ricky Langley, a Calcasieu Parish man who confessed during an interrogation to the 1992 murder of a 6-year-old named Jeremy Guillory.

Calcasieu Parish prosecutors tried Langley three times for the boy’s murder. At his first trial, Langley was convicted and sentenced to death, but those proceedings were nullified after it was found that the judge presiding over the grand jury selected the foreperson based on race. In the second trial, Langley was acquitted of first-degree murder—defined by Louisiana law as killing a human being with specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm while committing an aggravated felony, or when the individual kills a person under the age of twelve or older than 65, which is considered an aggravating circumstance—after his attorneys argued that he could not form “specific intent” because he was mentally incapable of doing so. The jury returned a guilty verdict on second-degree murder, a lesser offense. But when Langley’s defense team appealed, he was granted a new trial. At the third trial, prosecutors retried Langley on the second-degree murder charge, which his attorneys said violated the double jeopardy clause—but he was nonetheless convicted.

The day before Dixon’s fiery interview, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that Langley’s second-degree-murder conviction from the third trial was invalid because a jury in the second trial rejected the state’s claim that Guillory acted with specific intent, therefore precluding prosecutors from getting a second bite at the apple on that issue in a third trial. The decision sets up a possible fourth trial for Langley on manslaughter charges, and now defense attorneys and legal ethics experts say that Dixon’s KPLC comments raise ethical concerns that he has prejudiced pretrial proceedings.

Such concerns are backed by ethical guidelines for prosecutors. According to American Bar Association guidelines, prosecutors should not make or authorize extrajudicial statements that would have a substantial likelihood of prejudicing a criminal proceeding; they are also ethically bound to prevent law enforcement personnel from doing so. The Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct has similar language about the role prosecutors have in reining in such statements by law enforcement. Rule 3.8(f) states that prosecutors should “exercise reasonable care to prevent investigators, law enforcement personnel, employees or other persons assisting or associated with the prosecutor in a criminal case from making an extrajudicial statement.”

Dane S. Ciolino, a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans who edits the blog Louisiana Legal Ethics, said Dixon has possibly crossed an ethical line with his rant about Langley, referring to the standards set by Louisiana’s rules of professional conduct stating that prosecutors shouldn’t make any comments before trial that are likely to increase public condemnation of the accused.

“That’s the real problem with that kind of comment,” Ciolino told The Appeal. “There used to be press conferences with dope and guns after arrests were made, and you don’t see those so much anymore because people understand that it’s inappropriate to do anything that increases the public condemnation of the accused prior to trial. … Most prosecutors and law enforcement officers understand their obligations.”

Ciolino adds that “prosecutors have to rein the [police chief] in,”and he places responsibility for Dixon’s comments squarely at the feet of Calcasieu Parish prosecutors.

Indeed, Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier sat beside Dixon during the KPLC interview and made similar condemnations of Langley. “We are going to use every resource this office has, as long as it takes, as much as it costs, to keep this horrible killer, this murderer, in prison for the rest of his life,” DeRosier said. “Because this individual will kill again. He has said he will kill again. And we have people to whom he has said that.”

In response to an interview request from The Appeal, DeRosier’s office issued the following statement on possible ethical violations committed by DeRosier and Dixon during the KPLC interview: “The proper venue to raise and resolve an allegation of prejudicial pretrial publicity is within the confines of the courts—not in the media. That is how we will address any such allegations if and when they arise.”

The Lake Charles Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.

Potential disciplinary sanctions for prosecutors for engaging in prejudicial conduct include disbarment, suspension, or admonition by the state’s bar association, though it’s worth noting that they are rarely disciplined for misconduct

Ciolino says that regardless of whether disciplinary action is taken against Dixon or DeRosier, he expects the defense to seek a gag order on Dixon and possibly a motion for a change in venue. Dixon and DeRosier’s statements, he says, “just cause needless trouble in the conduct of the proceeding.”

Why Sex Offender Registries Keep Growing Even as Sexual Violence Rates Fall

Lists that include out-of-state visitors are inflating the numbers and keeping fear at a boil.

A map published by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)

Why Sex Offender Registries Keep Growing Even as Sexual Violence Rates Fall

Lists that include out-of-state visitors are inflating the numbers and keeping fear at a boil.

Quentin (not his real name) was convicted eight years ago of child pornography possession in Florida. He served his time and has since moved to another state. But his sentence required his photo and other personal details to appear on Florida’s sex offender registry, and there they will stay for the rest of his life, even if he never sets foot in the state again.

The state’s registry is padded with thousands of Quentins, people who don’t live in Florida. Under a change to state law passed this spring, there will soon be more: Starting July 1, out-of-state registrants who visit for at least three days (down from five) must go to a sheriff’s office to have their personal details added to Florida’s list. If they don’t, they face a third-degree felony.

Rules like that aren’t unique—22 other states keep out-of-state visitors on their registries for life, according to a study released last November. It’s one reason state lists misrepresent the actual number of people with sex-crime records living in communities. As already-bloated lists keep ballooning, they feed the impression of a growing population of dangerous people who require ever-more-extreme laws to monitor and control.

On May 30, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) released its latest nationwide count of names on state sex offender registries. For the first time ever, the total was more than 900,000. NCMEC spokesperson Staca Shehan told The Appeal the organization doesn’t share data on growth trends because changes in state laws and other anomalies can make it difficult to accurately compare the data across years. But calculations by William Dobbs of Dobbs Wire, who tracks sex-offender registry developments nationwide, show a 3 percent jump in the nationwide number in the last six months. That’s slightly faster than in the past; increases have fluctuated between about 3 and 5 percent annually since 2007. Even if the growth rate returns to that historical average, by 2021 more than a million names will be on registries.

Many of those entries are duplicates like Quentin or represent people who are not actually part of a state’s population for some other reason. In a 2014 study in the journal Crime & Delinquency, a research team found that in the 42 states and two territories studied, 19 percent of those on registries were still behind bars, 9 percent lived out of state, and 3 percent had been deported. Of Florida’s 55,000 registrants at the time, more than 31,000 were in one of those three categories. “It’s a concern of ours,” Shehan said of problems with the count. She says NCMEC has no way of knowing how often an offender shows up on multiple state lists. So that means then there’s duplicated offenders in our grand total,” she said. “And we have no way of knowing how often that happens.”

Even if the growth rate returns to that historical average, by 2021 more than a million names will be on registries.

Dobbs, an adviser to the Sex Offense Litigation and Policy Resource Center affiliated with the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, says the inaccuracies are symptoms of a malignant logic at the heart of registries: that people who have served their time should be put on public lists because of the ineffable risk of what they might do in the future. Problems with registries can’t be fixed, he says, because the concept itself is a “broken” one. “It turns people into suspects foreveror at least as long as they’re on it,” he said. “The politicians have created this giant naming-and-shaming train and are fueling it with fear.”

One of Quentin’s cousins is getting married in October and invited him to be in the wedding in Florida, says Quentin’s mother. But to participate in the various events, he would need to stay more than three days—meaning a trip to the local sheriff’s office to get a new photo taken and have the address where he’s staying and the license plates of any cars he will drive added to Florida’s public registry. So Quentin is skipping the wedding.  

Even if registry counts are inflated, it’s likely that the real number of registrants is rising as state lists scoop up an ever-broader swath of the population. One reason: New state laws governing who must register are typically applied retroactively to cover those who offended before the laws passed.

(Retroactive punishment is banned by the U.S. Constitution, but the Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that being placed on a registry doesn’t count as punishment. Since then, as evidence has emerged that registration is indeed punitive, the retroactive provisions of state sex-offense laws are being struck down: Several courts have ruled since 2016 that they violate the Constitution’s ban.)  

Under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, passed in 2006, states have been required to expand their registries to cover people convicted of a broader set of crimes. The number on Wyoming’s registry in 2011, for instance, rose to 1,450 from 125 after the state passed legislation compliant with the act that required children and teens to be registered. As other states try to comply by passing new laws, additional categories of people get put on their registries, Shehan says.

And sex-offense laws trigger long registration periods, making entry onto the list mostly a one-way door. In 19 states, sex offender registration lasts for life for adults; in 16 others, it’s 15 to 30 years; and in another 14, it’s a minimum of 10 years, according to the Restoration of Rights Project run by the Collateral Consequences Resource Center and its partner organizations.

NCMEC’s steadily inflating number is catnip for those who traffic in evergreen scare stories. One website advises parents to use the map in deciding where to move. States with high per-capita sex offender populations might not be a good choice, it implies. NCMEC itself may feed those fears with its marketing: On its website, photos of missing kids are adjacent to the link to its sex offender tracking map.

But research shows that sex-offender maps have almost nothing to do with protecting children. Nearly all sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone not on a registry; first-time offenders commit north of 90 percent of new sex crimes, according to studies in New York and Minnesota. Most sexual violence victims know their perpetrators—86 percent in a Bureau of Justice Statistics study published in 2000. And those with a sexual offense on their record have low sex-crime reoffense rates: 12 percent on average, according to a definitive 2014 meta-analysis of 21 other studies. Those same researchers found that reoffense risk declines the longer that someone lives in the community crime-free. For those who hadn’t reoffended by 10 years after an initial sexual offense, their risk of committing a new sex crime was 1 to 5 percent—a rate comparable to ex-offenders with no history of sex crime.

Sex-offense laws trigger long registration periods, making entry onto the list mostly a one-way door.

All of that might explain why the registry count and sex-crime rates are traveling in opposite directions. Multiple studies show rates of sexual violence falling significantly after the early 1990s. “I care about [the inflated count] from a policy perspective because it keeps people in fear,” said Alissa Ackerman, a California State University, Fullerton criminologist who was part of the 2014 Crime & Delinquency research team and has co-authored numerous studies of sexual-offense issues. “It keeps them wanting legislation—you know, we have to do something. … It’s maps like this and propaganda like this that keep people feeling that way.”

Ackerman says rather than expanding the list, more resources should be focused on sexual-violence prevention programs and on mental health services and treatment for people who have experienced and committed sexual abuse. “That’s not where we’re putting our money,” she said. “These policies don’t work—let’s focus on something that does work.”

Shehan says NCMEC’s map isn’t intended to scare people. The group’s prevention education materials make clear the danger of sexual abuse committed by a stranger on a registry is small, she says. But she acknowledges that message could be clearer on the map itself. “We’ve taken several precautions and made adaptations to the map in the past,” she said. “That’s one I can definitely add to the list of considerations.”

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Austin Cops Said They Shot A Man Who Fired On Them--But It Turns Out He Didn't Fire A Shot

Lawrence Parrish faces charges including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and remains jailed on $500,000 bond even though the Austin police admitted he never shot at them.

An Austin Police unit parked on a city street while an officer is on traffic duty.

Austin Cops Said They Shot A Man Who Fired On Them--But It Turns Out He Didn't Fire A Shot

Lawrence Parrish faces charges including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and remains jailed on $500,000 bond even though the Austin police admitted he never shot at them.

On the night of April 7, 2017, the roommate of Austin, Texas, resident Lawrence Parrish called 911 to report that Parrish was sitting in the street with a gun. She said that Parrish, then 31, had been acting strange all day and speculated that he might be on drugs. By the time police arrived, Parrish  had gone back inside his home. Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said Parrish refused to come out for a “period of time,” which prompted officers to call a SWAT team.

Police say Parrish eventually emerged from the house holding a .40-caliber Hi-Point rifle. They initially claimed that he had fired at the officers, which prompted them to shoot back.

Four officers shot at Parrish. Parrish’s brother, Cluren Williams, says he was shot over nine times, although authorities have not confirmed this. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and, according to friends and family, two fingers had to be amputated. Parrish was booked into the Travis County Correctional Complex by proxy while recovering from his injuries. Williams also claims that Parrish’s family was not allowed to visit him in the hospital after he was shot. “They won’t give us any access, we’re not getting any logical explanation, we’re not getting any good reasoning why the mother can’t even see him. It’s just ridiculous,” he told KXAN-TV.

According to an April 8 arrest affidavit, one of the police officers claimed he saw Parrish “raise the rifle toward his direction,” before firing two rounds at him. The officer then ducked to avoid gunfire, but when he heard additional shots, he believed that they were coming from Parrish. The officers who shot at Parrish were put on administrative leave the week after the shooting, while Internal Affairs and the Austin Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit conducted inquiries on the incident as part of protocol.

But just a few days after Parrish was shot by the police, Manley changed course.  “We now believe, based on where we are at in the investigation, that he did not fire,” he said. “Even though our officers that night at the scene believed that he had, in fact, fired the weapon.”  

Despite the admission from the police that Parrish did not shoot at them, Parrish’s $500,000 bond was not reduced, and then charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault against a public servant, and possession of a controlled substance remained unchanged. Manley has stated that these charges are still appropriate because Parrish brandished a weapon in a threatening manner. Advocates in Austin disagree; on June 6, the grassroots criminal justice reform group Austin Justice Coalition started a fundraiser to bail Parrish out.

Williams told The Appeal that his brother was denied a bond reduction three times. He also said that he has obtained video from the night of the incident that contradicts police claims and that he’s eager to present that evidence when Parrish’s case finally goes before a judge (jury selection in the case begins on July 12).

Parrish has remained behind bars in a year where the Austin Police Department struggles with police shootings. In 2018, five suspects have been shot by its officers. Only one of those who was shot survived.


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