Katrina Hammers New Orleans Justice System

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This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," September 8, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: With the New Orleans (search) city jail under water, criminals are being sent to Camp Greyhound — a temporary jail at the bus station. But what about trials, what about evidence that was saved for trials, what about court records? Did the court records get destroyed?

New Orleans District Attorney Eddie Jordan joins us live on the phone, welcome Eddie.


VAN SUSTEREN: Eddie, so tell me where are you doing your trials or do you have any trials?

JORDAN: We're not having any trials right now. The court cannot conduct any trials as long as there's water on the streets and in the courthouse itself.

VAN SUSTEREN: Was there water that came into the courthouse building?

JORDAN: There's water in the basement of the courthouse building. Water came up to the front steps of the courthouse. Much of the evidence in the evidence room of the clerk's office is under water.

VAN SUSTEREN: What are you going to do about that because if a prosecutor proves a case with evidence that has been in an evidence vault or container and if your evidence is now under water, chances are you've got a big problem.

JORDAN: There's no question. This is a prosecutor's worst nightmare to have the physical evidence upon which he relies to prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt under water, damaged or compromised in some way. That's a terrible set of circumstances.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you do about bond hearings in the short run in terms of like let's say that there's a shooting tonight, someone gets arrested, where do you take the person even to consider the issue of detention?

JORDAN: Well, we don't have a problem as much with the cases that are going forward. We do have now a detention facility in the Amtrak building and the persons who were arrested on the streets of New Orleans for murder or looting or whatever are brought to that facility and when we get enough of those individuals to put in a bus they're taken away to Hunt Correctional Facility (search).

VAN SUSTEREN: Where's the judge to do the actual decision though to tell you that the person should not get bond or gets a significant bond he or she can't make?

JORDAN: Well, that doesn't have to take place for 72 hours, so it is — at this time we've only had a handful of those proceedings and they've actually taken place at the jail with a New Orleans Parish Criminal District Court judge. That has not been a major problem at this time but the major problem that is facing us would be having a trial of these individuals.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so if someone gets picked up tonight you have sort of an unusual proceeding that within 72 hours you're going to have to have a judge down at that Amtrak or Greyhound station to have a hearing?

JORDAN: No, actually they've been done by video and that hasn't presented a problem so far and actually what we've done is we've had a prosecutor I believe either in Hunt or in Orleans Parish and the proceeding is conducted that way.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well you got to get a defense attorney down there or can a defense attorney do that by video in your state?

JORDAN: A defense attorney I think could do it by video but the major problem that we're facing has to do with evidence for cases that were made before the storm itself. That is our greatest concern.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I take it that tonight in the state of confusion that your state has endured you have no idea which cases, even whether a murder case has been seriously compromised by evidence and water?

JORDAN: We certainly don't know at this time because we're not in the position to evaluate each case and, of course, in addition to the physical evidence we also have problems with witnesses who are now scattered across the United States.

VAN SUSTEREN: Wow, what a prosecutor's nightmare. It's theoretically possible people charged with very serious crimes murder, rape, all those cases will have to be set free because the evidence is gone or compromised. Eddie, thank you and good luck sir.

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