(New Orleans, LA) – In light of her racist rant that was captured on video, Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams has ordered a complete examination of all cases prosecuted in Orleans Parish by Lafayette Judge Michelle Odinet.
The probe arrives after a cell phone video surfaced showing a television displaying security footage of a burglary attempt at the judge’s home. Though the family is not visible on the video, laughter and the N-word can be heard as they watch the surveillance footage. Multiple sources, including Odinet’s attorney, Dane Ciolino, confirmed that it was Odinet heard in the video using the racial slur and calling the Black burglar a roach. Odinet maintains that she had taken a sedative when the video was recorded and did not remember making the comments.
The District Attorney’s Office is now taking a hard look at Odinet’s time as a prosecutor and Assistant District Attorney in Orleans Parish during the 90s.
Odinet grew up in the New Orleans region, graduated from Tulane Law School in 1993, and served as a prosecutor for a few years under now-disgraced District Attorney Harry Connick. His 30-year tenure was plagued by a slew of convictions that have since been overturned. It remains unclear how many cases Odinet handled under her maiden name Michelle Miller.
DA Williams slammed Odinet, who he says “so comfortably employed a racial epithet” that helped fuel mass incarcerations that plagued African-Americans in the 1990s.
“Moreover, the casual dehumanization displayed by Judge Odinet raises serious questions about her impartiality and the presence of bias and discrimination in her work on the bench and during her time as a prosecutor,” he added.
One high-profile conviction that will likely be included in the review will be the 1995 re-trial of Robert Graves, who was convicted of first-degree murder for the French Quarter stabbing spree that targeted gay men. Prosecutors called it a hate crime, and he was eventually sentenced to life in prison.
Odinet is now on unpaid leave and has been asked to resign by residents, activists, and government leaders, including Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and U.S. Rep. Troy Carter of New Orleans.
“I know that the judge has taken a period of unpaid leave to reflect on what her next move should be, and I believe she has all but acknowledged that the words uttered in that video were hers,” Edwards previously stated.
The National Bar Association has also called on Odinet to leave her position as judge permanently before further damage is done. The organization’s president, President Carlos Moore, called Odinet’s statements “absolutely disgusting.”
“I am highly offended and do not believe Odinet deserves to be in the ranks of the judiciary,” Moore said in a statement.
Last week, one of Odinet’s sons, Elijah, was removed from the Louisiana State University track team over his role in the video. Another of her sons is also on the team, though it appears he is still on the team.
Odinet has not publicly commented on the investigation.
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