A lawyer for Cardell Hayes, who was convicted of manslaughter for killing former Saints player Will Smith, wants to add the district attorney’s use of a fake subpoena in that case to Hayes’ appeal record.
That was one of three examples cited in a Lens story that revealed the Orleans Parish DA’s practice of sending fake subpoenas.
The notices threatened fines and imprisonment if people didn’t show up at the DA’s office to talk to prosecutors. But they had no legal authority because they were not approved by a judge or issued by a clerk, as the law requires.
Defense lawyers and legal experts said the notices were misleading, unethical and perhaps illegal. Although a spokesman for District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro initially defended the practice, the office immediately stopped using them and Cannizzaro later said they were improper.
Tiffany LaCroix, the mother of Hayes’ son, got the fake subpoena a couple of weeks before his trial in December. It ordered her to appear at the DA’s office for a private interview.
Anthony Ibert, her lawyer, appeared in court to quash the subpoena. According to Chris Bowman, Cannizzaro’s spokesman, the DA’s office withdrew it and asked the judge to issue a real subpoena ordering LaCroix to show up at trial. But she never testified at the trial.
Last week, Paul Barker, Hayes’ lawyer, asked Criminal District Court Judge Camille Buras to add 13 pretrial and trial documents to Hayes’ appeal record before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal.
Among those items: a copy of the “subpoena issued by the District Attorney commanding the appearance of Tiffany LaCroix.” NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune first reported the development Monday.
Barker said in an interview he’s not sure how the fake subpoena will figure into the appeal. “I don’t think it helps the state’s case, by any means,” he said. “If anything, it helps us.”
Along with the fake subpoena itself, Barker wants the appeal record to include a transcript from the November hearing at which Ibert asked the judge to toss the subpoena.
The use of “DA subpoenas” — that’s what prosecutors called them — apparently went on for years, but it’s not clear how often they were used.
Cannizzaro denied a public records request from The Lens for all fake subpoenas issued between January 2016 and mid-2017. The Lens is suing Cannizzaro for the records.
The ACLU of Louisiana and the MacArthur Justice Center have filed similar suits. This month, a judge ordered Cannizzaro to disclose the names of prosecutors who used fake subpoenas. Cannizzaro is appealing that order.
Bowman has said prosecutors used “DA subpoenas” to pressure reluctant witnesses to talk to prosecutors.
“Maybe in some places if you send a letter on the DA’s letterhead that says, ‘You need to come in and talk to us,’ … that is sufficient. It isn’t here,” Bowman said. “That is why that looks as formal as it does.”
Bowman did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.