by Marion Marks
This election cycle has proven that Caddo citizens discovered that a little ignorance is the currency of far too many voters, and that those who believe they can sway an election with big dollars still have a lot to learn. Regardless of the inclement weather, registered voters failed to exercise their hard-fought right to vote. The “sovereignty” Monroe refers is a double-edged privilege, granted to all, simply thru citizenship. Yet the “right” is neglected or ignored when we demonstrate a failure to vote. The rights of citizenship only become an acceptable currency when the holder of the right exercises their vote.
The basic belief of the founding fathers, and the expectation of those who cherish those rights, seems to be mostly ignored today as a majority refuse to vote, even when it is in their interest to cast a vote. Suggesting that their right to vote is being taken away, many would scream loudly. So the question now becomes, who will not vote in the November runoff?
The saddest media message I read since the returns came in is that outside money will again bombard our airwaves in an attempt to force some measure of sanity on Caddo Parish and the State of Louisiana. I would like to think that the recent election results should be attributed to either a better messaged candidate or someone’s effective money used to communicate a better message. However, as more outside money comes in to influence our local ballot, the more intense feeling by residents that “carpetbaggers” have once again traveled south.
The Shreveport Times clearly messages consistently with the New Yorker, the New York Times, 60 Minutes and other voices who have forced Caddo citizens to see the illogical focus we have had on death penalty cases to the detriment of our whole system of justice. We were fortunate that Dale Cox, heir to the DA’s seat after the untimely death of Charles Scott, chose to not enter the race. But to all outsiders, it is apparent that “Big Media” believe anyone associated with the current office, and by this Dhu Thompson must accept responsibility, is automatically disqualified from being capable of turning that apparently dysfunctional office around. Anywhere else Thompson would automatically be labeled “guilty by association.” Yet, by the same token, Judge Stewart, a former Caddo Parish Assistant District Attorney, must accept both responsibility and credit for his years with the Caddo District Attorney’s office. Likewise, Stewart must be accountable for all criminal cases he reviewed that are judged in the same way Cox and Thompson are held responsible. It’s a double-edged sword of justice.
There are NO innocents in Caddo who worked death penalty cases in the district attorney’s office. The success of an assistant district attorney is measured by the ability to get the maximum penalty in cases they prosecute, regardless of the mercy expected in the system. Unfortunately justice is not measured solely by the work done to accommodate society’s needs of balancing quality of life with safety for businesses and private citizens. The screams for justice after each murder victim becomes a front page story, not tempered by any measure for educating poor or neglected youth sought out for a grizzly crime.
Caddo is capable of fixing problems related to over-charged death-penalty seeking prosecutors in the same manner we are capable of addressing the educational framework of parish schools. When educators are empowered in the classroom to effect preschool through adult education, tempered with a functioning and well-funded juvenile justice program, we can reduce the number of teens and young adults on the path to a lifetime of crime or unqualified for becoming productive members of society.
We can’t expect to fix our parish by focusing totally on the district attorney’s race in the same way that turning over a majority of the members of the school board didn’t fix the school system. Caddo Parish is a microcosm of Louisiana with the notable exception of the glaring cancer in one area of the total case load of the district attorney’s office, death penalty cases. Many sections of the district attorney’s office do work as designed, and these need to remain in tact, regardless of election results in November.
Whatever the outcome, more registered voters must become part of the process and vote. Debates or forums between now and the election need a broader audience and all areas of the office of the DA should be discussed to enlighten voters. This local race needed national attention, but now it’s up to Caddo citizens to appreciate what really determines our future. Outside money flooding our airwaves with lots of noise is basically a great distraction. Let’s hope the truths are not distorted, because this pot of outside money seems to corrupt the election process our founding fathers envisioned.
To students of history, I add a closing paragraph of James Madison, from the same speech I began, his inaugural address, March 4, 1817. Madison was eternally optimistic and saw the potential for the country rather than the obstacles that clouded the horizon. He continued, “Equally gratifying is it to witness the increased harmony of opinion which pervades our Union. Discord does not belong to our system. Union is recommended as well by the free and benign principles of our Government, extending its blessings to every individual, as by the other eminent advantages attending it. The American people have encountered together great dangers and sustained severe trials with success. They constitute one great family with a common interest. Experience has enlightened us on some questions of essential importance to the country. The progress has been slow, dictated by a just reflection and a faithful regard to every interest connected with it. To promote this harmony in accord with the principles of our republican Government and in a manner to give them the most complete effect, and to advance in all other respects the best interests of our Union, will be the object of my constant and zealous exertions.”