Stop Prosecuting Children Like They’re Adults

Target: Orleans Parish, Louisiana District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro

Goal: Resign for constantly sending kids to adult court even for minor, non-violent offenses.

The district attorney of Orleans Parish, Louisiana, sends juveniles into adult courts at every available opportunity. Leon Cannizzaro has sent youths into the adult court system even if they have no previous criminal record. He sends them up even if they only played a minor role in an alleged crime. He transfers kids to adult court even if they are being charged with a nonviolent offense. He sends kids to adult court even if they are mentally ill or developmentally disabled.

D.A. Cannizzaro’s practice of sending juveniles into the adult court system is practically how he runs the office. Between 2011 and 2015, Cannizzaro’s office transferred more than 80 percent of their cases involving 15- and 16-year-old defendants charged with offenses where the option to transfer was available to adult court. Making matters even worse, Louisiana state law does not allow for judges to make a call regarding such a transfer. The decision to transfer a juvenile case to adult court is the district attorney’s decision, and his alone.

Even though experts agree that adult prosecution of minors is the wrong response to juvenile delinquency, Cannizzaro has sent over 200 juveniles into the adult court system for trial since taking over the district attorney position in 2009. Orleans Parish isn’t any safer because of it, as arrests for offenses eligible for transfer adult court are increasing. Studies indicate that recidivism rates are lower for juvenile defendants prosecuted in the juvenile system than they are for juveniles prosecuted in adult courts.

Cannizzaro’s default practice of transferring 15- and 16-year old’s to the adult court system is unfair, ineffective, fails to protect public safety, fails to conserve public tax dollars, increases recidivism rates, and serves a prime example of how not to respond to juvenile crime. Considering that it does not appear that Cannizzaro will change his mind, it is imperative that we do something about it. Sign the petition and call for Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s resignation.


Dear D.A. Cannizzaro,

Your insistence upon sending 15- and 16-year-old juvenile offenders to adult court is staggering. The numbers tell the story of someone whose legal philosophy is based around scaring children into submission, but that philosophy is causing significant harm to adolescents in Orleans Parish. Recidivism rates have gone up. The practice isn’t making Orleans Parish safer and is largely ineffective. Further, the practice fails to conservative public tax dollars for other important projects.

It is with this in mind that we politely ask for your resignation as district attorney of Orleans Parish. This practice isn’t justice and as district attorney, it is your job to pursue justice and achieve it whenever possible. You have failed you oath to uphold the law and do right by the men and women for whom you prosecute crimes.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Bart Everson

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240 Signatures

  • trish gallardo
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