Editor and Contributing Writer
Photograph: St. Landry Parish District Attorney Chad Pitre (Photograph by Bobby Ardoin)
St. Landry Parish District Attorney Chad Pitre finds himself working in two directions in order to manage a felony court docket that might seem unconquerable.
After 17 months of handling parish wide prosecutions, Pitre has decided to operate in seemingly two directions, moving the new cases forward while attempting to rid his files of about 6,000 previously non-prosecuted cases.
Pitre knew the situation he faced when he was sworn into office last year and with less than a third gone of his first administration he’s not complaining.
Now he’s developed a strategy that he thinks will work at disposing of the enormous number of cases that awaited him and dealing with the ascending crime rate parish wide.”What we are doing is attempting to reduce the backlog of cases that were there in 2021 and try to keep ahead of the current docket. You want to keep your older files manageable, yet you want to keep prosecuting cases. You want to do that in order to send a message that we are going to bring you into the courtroom or if you get a reasonable deal, it would be best to take it,” Pitre said.
Pitre estimates that he has either prosecuted or made successful plea bargain deals with 530 of the 6,000 non-prosecuted defendants that Pitre says were there since taking office. “Another 130 cases we have taken off the docket for a number of reasons,” Pitre added.
There have also been approximately 1,350 new cases since 2021 Pitre said. The DA’s Office has added an extra prosecutor to help handle that issue, Pitre pointed out.
Pitre said there are 30 homicide cases that still need attention.. Overall Pitre added he and his staff have identified what he describes as 50 priority felony cases that are being prioritized.
The DA’s Office Pitre said, has four full-time prosecutors and 1 part-time prosecutor.”Our approach from the start was to cut the overhead (in the DA’s Office). This office was top heavy administratively, so we decided to put the money that was being spent there and put it into courtroom prosecution. We added a prosecutor and two full-time victims rights advocates where before there was one. We want our victims rights employees to be there with the victims’ families and keep them informed,” Pitre said.
Pitre said he in encouraged by the support of parish law enforcement agencies who help build cases with evidence collection and testimony. “We have gotten great support from the Sheriff’s Department, state police, chiefs of police and the FBI.While attempting to increase the number of prosecutions, Pitre said he is still aware of other ways to help those accused of crime.”I believe in second chances. What I don’t believe in is third, fourth and fifth chances. We have several alternatives such as Drug Court that are available in order to avoid jail time. There are plenty of options, and we willing to use those options on a case to case basis,” Pitre said.
Complicating prosecutions and law enforcement in St. Landry, Pitre added is an escalating juvenile crime problem.”Juvenile cases are increasing in this parish at an enormous rate. We have a lot of juveniles now in ankle bracelets. Fortunately we have the two city courts that are helping us,” said Pitre.
Pitre is also interested in obtaining state funding for an Acadiana area juvenile facility. Pitre envisions a regional juvenile facility concept that includes several parishes surrounding St. Landry.
State juvenile justice officials Pitre said, prefer to treat juveniles as individuals who should not be incarcerated in the same manner as adults who are incarcerated.”The idea is still that you can’t mix juveniles and adults in the same facilities. You need to treat juveniles as a child rather than an inmate,” added Pitre.