HILLAR MOORE, EAST BATON ROUGE DISTRICT ATTORNEY, HILLAR MOORE, DISCUSSES CRIME IN EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH

Locke Meredith: Hello I’m Locke Meredith and I’d like to invite you to join me on the next Legal Lines, where our guest is Hillar Moore. He is the District Attorney for The East Baton Rouge Parish and he is going to talk to us about how frankly, crime is rising in East Baton Rouge Parish. He’s going to talk to us about what he thinks we can do to help stead the flow of the increase in crime. Particularly focusing on the young kids and those that are the most susceptible. So join us on the next Legal Lines with Hillar Moore, the District Attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish.

Locke Meredith: Hello, I’m Locke Meredith and I’m very pleased to have on the show today Hillar Moore, he is The District Attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish. Hillar, thank you so much for being on the show today.

Hillar Moore: Glad to be here.

Locke Meredith: I appreciate it. Tell the folks a little bit about yourself, you’ve been around here for quite a while.

Hillar Moore: Well, I’ve been the DA here for two years now. I’ve been a practicing Lawyer for about eighteen years total. I’m originally from New Orleans, I came here to go to LSU for school and I didn’t leave.

Locke Meredith: And I love the story about your Dad being a World War II veteran that was actually over there when they dropped the bomb.

Hillar Moore: Yeah, I’m real proud of my dad. Landed in Hiroshima, he served the country honorably and that is how I was taught and raised. That’s all seven brothers and sisters were taught and raised. He had a really good teaching hat.

Locke Meredith: And I think one of seven kids is that right?

Hillar Moore: One of seven.

Locke Meredith: So a big family. And I think I read your dad was in the Marines for thirty years?

Hillar Moore: Thirty three years and he was the President of Associated Grocers here in Baton Rouge for many years. He has a lot of friends here and is real active in the community…Mary Byrd Perkins, Marine Corps, lots of things.

Locke Meredith: Tell him Thank you for all of his service. There are not a whole lot of those guys left.

Hillar Moore: No we are losing a generation.

Locke Meredith: Well as I understand it, like you said, you went to New Orleans schools. I think you went to Brother Martin, you said? And you got up here and went to LSU Criminal Justice is that right? And you started working as what an investigator?

Hillar Moore: Actually, in undergraduate I was in Criminal Justice at the time and we were required to do an internship and fortunately for me, I was able to do an internship with Mr. Ossie Brown the DA then. He allowed me to do an internship, which I did, and I stayed extra because I really liked the job and was the job that I wanted to have, to be a District Attorney investigator. Fortunately for me, when my internship ended, and I was close to graduating, there was an opening and Mr. Brown hired me on at that time and I stayed there for nearly twelve years as an investigator.

Locke Meredith: And describe to the folks what an investigator, I mean is that like CSI, or NCIS?

Hillar Moore: The role has somewhat changed over the years. Basically, the District Attorney Investigator assists the Attorneys that are there and they prepare cases for trial. So they will receive the file once the police have made an arrest and they’ll go through the file, look at it and prepare it for trial, because our burden is different than the police. Ours is beyond a reasonable doubt, not probable cause. Witnesses leave, move and we need evidence in court and we have to try and track and them down. So Investigators pretty much fill that role. We also as Investigators and Assistant DA’s, go to the murder scenes. You’ll see us sometimes on the news where we are at the crime scene, particularly at a murder scene. Because we have to eventually prosecute that case when someone is arrested and we have found that we like to see first hand, the crime scene, ourselves, and talk to them ourselves. So we know that a year down the road or two years when the case is being presented to a jury we can not only tell them about the case from a report or pictures but we are there in person and could describe it better.

Locke Meredith: And the case is only as good as the facts and the evidence.

Hillar Moore: Exactly.

Locke Meredith: A very, very important part of it. I guess you kind of got your whistle wet so to speak in the Law and decided to go to law school.

Hillar Moore: Well, after graduating from the undergraduate program in criminal justice, they began a Masters Degree program and I entered into that program and progressed about thirty years in that program. Working for the DA’s office I eventually decided that my dream job of DA Investigator wasn’t going to pay a whole lot of money. So I decided to eventually leave and then go Law school. I graduated as one of the top in my class but we had a very good class, a lot of smart people in that group that I had a lot of good teachers. Once I graduated from Southern, I became a partner with Tony Marabella, who is now a Judge. I’ve practiced with him many teams, many years together. Following that I went into my own practice. By then my ultimate dream job was to be the DA. I ran about two years ago and I was elected and have been in that position for about two years now.

Locke Meredith: And of course you took over for Doug Moreau who had been a Judge for years and the District Attorney for what eighteen?

Hillar Moore: Actually, he was an Assistant District Attorney, City Court Judge, District Court Judge, District Attorney for sixteen years. He loves LSU football and Miami Dolphin football.

Locke Meredith: He’s done a lot of stuff hasn’t he?

Hillar Moore: Yes he has and it’s fortunate for me that I could rely on Ossie Brown, Ryan Bush and lately Doug Moreau. Really assisting me and helping me obtain the job, he left me a really good office too and a good staff.

Locke Meredith: Explain to the folks how it works. When you hear of the DA’s office, typically what probably pops in peoples minds is they are the guys who go after criminals and prosecute them but it’s a lot better job than that isn’t it?

Hillar Moore: The office is big. It’s probably the biggest Law Office in Baton Rouge. We have one hundred and fifty employees. Forty eight of that are attorneys; the others are investigators, clerical staff, and counselors. The bulk of the jobs are the attorneys that go to Court and prosecute cases. As I think you know, our case load is very high.

Locke Meredith: I saw I think, between twenty five thousand cases?

Hillar Moore: About twenty five thousand cases a year for adult criminal cases. Probably around six thousand Juvenile cases per year.

Locke Meredith: So how do a hundred and fifty people get that job done?

Hillar Moore: Well it’s difficult but it’s just like any other DA’s office across the country. You find a way to get it done. There are, not all cases eventually make it to a trial. There are very few trials compared to the case load. Most are resolved, are worked out through a plea in court.  A lot of times some are diverted on a system for first time offenders. It has a way of working itself out but it is a lot of hard work. It seems to be becoming harder every day because of the amount and the type of crime that we have. Particularly the Juvenile violent crimes those are troublesome. It’s a job that the people are there like to do.

Locke Meredith: Because the perception is absolutely that the crime has gone up significantly in Baton Rouge.

Hillar Moore: Well, I guess if I were to judge what’s going on now compared to when I started twenty five years ago, I think that you will see an increase in murders and things like that. Actually this past year we were what, six murders less than the year before, which is good but not good enough. But when you look at other cities our size across the nation, you see that Baton Rouge really holds their own so to speak with that number. Some cities are better, some are worse. However, we need to do better to get that number, that rate down. How do you do it, well that’s a good question. I think we have, hopefully we will talk about it later, I think we have some ways.

Locke Meredith: We will.

Hillar Moore: But I believe this year in particular, because of the murders at Beauregard town and because of the young man on the levee that is completely innocent minding his own business and is shot by a stray bullet because, particularly those two. People felt unsafe and that it’s the murder capital when the truth is we really ended up better than the year before. Maybe that’s not saying a lot but people should be concerned and we want them to be concerned because they understand now maybe what we see everyday and generally you may not see.

Locke Meredith: I’ve had the Police Chief and The Sheriff on also and they’ve made it real clear that all you guys cannot do your job unless the public helps.

Hillar Moore: Yes.

Locke Meredith: They are the eyes and the ears, the witnesses that provide the evidence either in advance or afterwards. If folks don’t take this seriously then we’ve got a problem.

Hillar Moore: They have to take back their own neighborhood. It actually starts with taking care of your family first. If everyone took care of their family first, then their neighbors, then their neighborhood and their city, then we are good. You can have all the great technology. You can have the best Police Chief, the best Sheriff, the best DA in the world, but if you don’t have witnesses and testimony, that’s the life blood of court and cases, criminal or civil but without witnesses there’s just can’t win.

Locke Meredith: So we need them to participate also.

Hillar Moore: Absolutely.

Locke Meredith: We’ll continue this on the next segment. This is Locke Meredith with Legal Lines and the Hillar Moore, the District Attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish. We’ll be right back.

 

Locke Meredith: Welcome back to Legal Lines, I’m Locke Meredith and once again I’m very pleased to have on the show Hillar Moore. He’s the District Attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish. Again, thanks Hillar for being on the show.

Hillar Moore: Good to be here.

Locke Meredith: We were talking about the perception that crime is high and the bottom line is that it has increased certainly over the years. And we were discussing before the show that statistically, as a percentage of its population, Louisiana incarcerates or puts in prison the largest percentage of its population.

Hillar Moore: Well first, perception turns out to really be reality. So whether our numbers have gone up or not. You know we could argue about the crime rate, whether the numbers are up or down, it doesn’t matter, it is what the people feel. And if they feel safe or not. We need to make people safe, first of all and then they wouldn’t have that feeling. So we all have to do a better job at that and part of that is actually getting down to the problem of what’s causing these severe problems that we are having.

Locke Meredith: And why is someone going into crime.

Hillar Moore: I mean we do incarcerate more than any other population.

Locke Meredith: Basically for every one out of two guys let out of prison, one of them is coming back.

Hillar Moore: The residuum rates are high across the country and we here are probably at the average, maybe a tiny bit higher but the statistics just show that once that person goes to jail he is going to come back out on the street. Eighty percent of the prisoners come back and get a job and unfortunately half of those eventually come back and they come back within a few years. We need to find out what the problem is and what is going on. To me, it all stems from childhood. If we are not able to get to our children from grades of K-4 and press upon them that they need education and get them excited to learn, then we are not going to catch them. We have a difficult time catching them from 5-8th and then much more difficult time from high school.

Locke Meredith: So if we chop it up, one to four, fifth to eighth and then so explain to me how you come up with that chop.

Hillar Moore: We have some dedicated child welfare agents that, truancy officers so to speak; we also have a place called the TASC or Truancy Assessment Center, its run thru LSU school of Social Work. They track Kindergarten to fourth graders and that’s what they concentrate on. They are in twenty schools here in Baton Rouge, and they are really hands on and they track the kids from that age to all the way to twenty or thirty years old and the kids that they are able to get to, they are able to save and redirect their lives. Not all of them.

Locke Meredith: So you can stop it.

Hillar Moore: Absolutely.

Locke Meredith: Do they target certain areas? I’m sure some areas are more high crime rate than others.

Hillar Moore: Generally the schools that these TASC people concentrate on are, there are about twenty schools and they are schools that are considered below the poverty line, ninety percent have free lunch or free breakfast. First of all, if a child doesn’t go to school that child, generally because it’s free breakfast and lunch, that child probably wont eat. So you get a free lunch, free breakfast, and when you’re in school, you’re able to learn. And they have shown, their research is clear that if they are able to touch these kids from K-4, their success is so much better down the road and continuing in high school and college and obtaining a job to some degree.

Locke Meredith: Interesting. So they are embedding their values and morals, or their work ethic into them during this brief period of time.

Hillar Moore: Absolutely and not all of them they can get to. Some of them they can’t and you can’t just be a TASC worker. It starts at home with the parent or parents. As you know, as you see, a lot of times we have single parent homes. A lot of times its mom only not a dad. Often times, it’s a grandma or grandfather who’s much older than the child and depending on the age the child is bigger and stronger than grandmother and tough to handle. We’ve had cases where children are raising children, we’ve had some cases where neighbors are raising children. Very, very difficult. Some kids that are in school are there sometimes, but they have to work, its more important to them or their parent that they go to work. We’ve seen all of the excuses as to why children are not in school. Teen pregnancy, a lot of children have been disruptive, bringing guns, what do you do to that child, do you send him back to that class? No, you can’t. Kids who are sixteen in the eighth grade it doesn’t work. We are finding ways. The Superintendent, Mr. Dilworth is fantastic.

Locke Meredith: So do you, I guess you try to implore to the kids a certain set of skills, morals, or whatever and then from fifth to eighth do you treat them differently? Or are there different sets of tools? There just aren’t enough resources are there?

Hillar Moore: There aren’t enough resources. There are forty two thousand children in public schools, and I believe at last count there were seven or eight child welfare agents, so you make that division, that calculation and then TASC workers are about the same. There’s just not enough, it’s just like being an Assistant DA or Public Defender the case load is overwhelming and you have to concentrate on the ones that you really can concentrate on. So I would like to see more people in that area, but its money and you have to touch these people.

Locke Meredith: And you said when we were talking about the folks in prison, that it’s extraordinary expensive so society is going to pay one or another. Either we are going to pay to incarcerate folks when they are adults or we can pay when they are young and try to give them the skills I guess.

Hillar Moore: Sure, I think we would all like to see building more and better schools so that each child would like to go to school as opposed to having roofs that leak and schools that are run down. I mean go to some other states and see their schools, it looks like campuses. We have some very good principals, very good school teachers, I’d like for them to have all of the power again and not the children or the parents. And hopefully, eventually we will work in that regard.

Locke Meredith: How does that happen?

Hillar Moore: It’s everybody working together. You’ve heard the stories of again, kids bringing guns to school and being disrespectful. Teachers can’t take care of the problems in the class because they are afraid of what the parent will say or what the Law may do. We need to give the teachers the power. The teachers are very close to these children, the next closest thing to the parents. The teachers are on the front line.

Locke Meredith: Is there legislation that you know of that we can somehow get behind to encourage such a thing?

Hillar Moore: You can make as many laws in legislation that you want if it doesn’t come from that person and within, then its just not going to happen.

Locke Meredith: Of course, the teachers are there for a certain period of time during the day. It’s really the family unit that is disintegrating.

Hillar Moore: It starts with the family unit. We would rather build more schools than more prisons and if we don’t take care of the kids, our own children, what your going to do is, your going to find you have a bigger DA’s office, your going to have more prisons, more police and sheriffs on the street because you have to handle that population.

 

Locke Meredith: And you’re going to have more crime.

Hillar Moore: You’re going to have more crime because you’ll have more police on the streets, and that will add to more summons and more arrests, because they will see more or find more. It can be a cycle, but we really have to stop it and look at it. To me, we’ve pretty much ignored it for fifty years and maybe ignored isn’t the right term; but we haven’t paid as much attention to Juveniles and the resources we need to spend with them and give to them as maybe we should. We only have two Juvenile Court Judges and they work very hard. It’s sad to hear of and see some of the cases that come through. Some of the violence that you see but it’s also sad to see the attitudes of some of the parents. When you hear and listen to it, you know why that child is probably there. We just all need to do a better job at finding out what is causing the problems that we are having and I would suspect that the answer is that eventually our children are becoming delinquent and will eventually become criminals. We need to invest more in the children and in education, programs for kids.

Locke Meredith: Alright we’ll talk about this on the next segment. This is Locke Meredith with Legal Lines, Hillar Moore, and The District Attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish. We’ll be right back.

 

Locke Meredith: Welcome back to Legal Lines I’m Locke Meredith and again very pleased to have on the show today Hillar Moore. He’s our District Attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish. Again, Hillar thanks for being here on the show today.

Hillar Moore: Good to be here.

Locke Meredith: We’re talking about kids and how bottom line, we’re going to pay money at the end or at the beginning and frankly, it would seem much more economical to do it when they are children and give them the skills to contribute to society. But let’s talk about the folks that you know, they hit the system and they commit a crime. Let’s say a young lady is raped, ok, let’s take that victim through the process. What happens?

Hillar Moore: Well, that’s a difficult one to answer. There’s a rape crisis center, police would be called once the report is made. That victim would actually then be asked if she wants to go through with making a report. She would then be taken to a hospital where she would then be evaluated, a rape kit would then be conducted by a doctor that is on staff with the rape crisis center. She would be counseled and go through that whole process and hopefully the police would eventually come with a suspect and an arrest is made. A rape victim to me, is a tough one to be.

Locke Meredith: How does it go about, typically how is someone arrested?

Hillar Moore: Often times they know each other or have some idea who it is. In the other cases where they don’t, obviously we rely on the physical evidence.

Locke Meredith: So the victim will fill out a form, a complaint, an affidavit?

Hillar Moore: Well they will tell the officers what occurred and the officers go back and process the scene. Look for hair, semen, DNA, fingerprints.

Locke Meredith: Ok, now what about someone who just gets punched in the face, do they sign an affidavit or claim or how does that?

Hillar Moore: Somebody gets punched in the face and they call the police, the police come out and there’s really no affidavit, or filing of charges. The charges are filed by the DA’s office. It’s just a report that’s made. That report is made and then an arrest is either made or a summons is issued and the process begins. Whether that person is arrested or given a summons, it eventually comes before a Judge.

Locke Meredith: What determines whether they are arrested immediately at the scene of a crime or just given a summons?

Hillar Moore: Well summons are generally for just misdemeanor offenses.

Locke Meredith: And a misdemeanor is defined as what?

Hillar Moore: A misdemeanor is a term of six months or less. Felonies are above six months or more. Generally, most felonies are put in jail, there are some exceptions, whether it be bonded out of jail. Eventually the file will come to our office within four to six weeks. We review the file to determine whether we can prosecute the case.

Locke Meredith: Does the Investigator review it or the Prosecutor?

Hillar Moore: Both. The Investigator and the Prosecutor.

Locke Meredith: And they’re looking at I guess, to decide whether or not there’s enough evidence to go forward.

 

Hillar Moore: Correct. Again, we have probable cause versus beyond a reasonable doubt. Our standard is far higher. We look to see if there have been previous cases that are similar to this incident. We are in contact with the Defense Lawyer, if there is one or the Public Defenders office and we start the process there.

Locke Meredith: And so depending on whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony or I guess a more severe crime determines whether or not a indictment is issued.

Hillar Moore: Correct. There are some cases where indictments are required. For example, First degree murder, second degree murder, those that carry life imprisonment, death penalty. We have to go to the Grand Jury. Most of the time, the vast majority are just a bill of information, a piece of paper that we sign bringing charges against the defendant.

Locke Meredith: And that’s based on a decision looking at all the evidence that says we can meet our burden of proof in a Court of Law.

Hillar Moore: Correct.

Locke Meredith: And then at that point, I guess there is an arraignment?

Hillar Moore: The defendant will go before the Judge. Generally the Judge will ask them, Guilty or Not Guilty, not guilty by reason of insanity, or no contest. The vast majority will plead not guilty, and it’s not a factual statement that I’m actually not guilty and saying it, it’s a legal plea of not guilty. It’s a little hard to explain. It starts the next process, which is motions, where Lawyers are able to find out a little more about your case.

Locke Meredith: And trial by Jury versus bench trial is determined by what?

Hillar Moore: The charge and the Defendant gets to choose, as you know, whether they want to be tried by a judge or a jury. Now with the new law, they must decide forty five days in advance so we know if we are preparing for a jury trial or a Judge Trial.

Locke Meredith: So you’re not wasting time.

Hillar Moore: Right.

Locke Meredith: Then the trial takes place and if they are found guilty, what happens?

Hillar Moore: If they are found guilty then the court will do a presentencing report and again depending on the type of crime and a probation officer will come out and interview victims, witnesses, the defendant, hear from all sides. The Court will eventually either have a sentencing hearing or just a sentencing date.

Locke Meredith: And you stated previously that not all cases go to trial very often cases are, I would say settled, but it’s a plea bargain, is it not.

Hillar Moore: Yes, we look at the facts of a case, things change over time. Especially in the cases that we handle and the violent crimes cases. We have a difficult time with witnesses coming to court, protecting witnesses, evidence that we have or don’t have. People change statements, we always have to judge our case, every time we go to court and see where it is at that point.

Locke Meredith: So it may be in the best interest of society to get them to plead guilty to this because you may not get them on the more difficult charge.

Hillar Moore: Absolutely, that is often times the case. Some victims say they don’t want to testify and they would rather not go to Court, its okay to resolve it this way.

Locke Meredith: And as I understand it there is also a victim’s bill of rights so to speak?

Hillar Moore: Right.

Locke Meredith: Explain that to the folks.

Hillar Moore: Well again, one of the things that I think we have been poor at is handling victims and witnesses of crime. They always seem to get left behind. With all of the recent cases that we have had over the nation, there is a victim’s bill of rights and now victims have a little more right to participate and obtain notice. Notice is the main thing. What we have done at the DA’s office here is, we’ve employed Victim Assistance Coordinators. It’s actually people who will sit with and talk to that victim and find out more about that victim and the witness and hold their hand through the process because this is Greek to them as it should be. It’s painful. We still need to do a better job. I’d really like to have more of those. They really assist the investigators and the Attorney’s because their in Court doing what they have to do. They can’t always return the calls, or see them hold their hand like we would like to. But these people stand and do that for us.

Locke Meredith: Explain to the folks how the system works for a kid who just makes a dumb mistake. They’ve never been involved with the system before, they just screwed up.

Hillar Moore: Again, it depends on how dumb that mistake is. Unfortunately kids make a dumb mistake the first armed robbery, drinking and driving and you kill somebody, difficult to assist. The vast majority are smaller offenses just not using the head, not mature enough. We have a pre-trial diversion program for certain offenses. What we try to do is divert them out of the system so that we don’t mark them up, so they can eventually get a job, it doesn’t stay on their record so that when they go to apply for a job or graduate from school they can say the charges were dismissed, my record is expunged.

Locke Meredith: Explain the expungement.

Hillar Moore: Well certain crimes you are allowed to have your record expunged. If you complete all of the conditions or if the charges are dismissed or if you are found not guilty. That wipes your record clean. Under Louisiana Law if your record is expunged, you are able to say under oath, although you may have plead guilty and had it dismissed under deferred adjudication, you are able to tell another party that the charges against me have been dismissed, my record is expunged. So it is a great benefit to those first time offenders.

Locke Meredith: And the bail bond system is basically, you put up money and you got six months to make sure they show up and if they don’t you lose that money or property.

Hillar Moore: Generally, yes.

Locke Meredith: Hillar, Thank you so much for being on the show, I appreciate it.

Hillar Moore: My pleasure.

Locke Meredith: This is Legal Lines with Locke Meredith and Hillar Moore, our District Attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish. Thank you for being with us.

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