DA Williams Orders Review of Cases Prosecuted by Former ADA Michelle Odinet

Photo courtesy of Lafayette City Court

District Attorney Jason Williams has ordered his office’s Civil Rights Division to begin a full review of cases prosecuted by former judge Michelle Odinet while she served as Assistant District Attorney in Orleans Parish.

The move comes after a video was released showing Odinet using a racial epithet multiple times while watching security footage of a burglary that occurred at her home earlier this month. Odinet resigned on Friday, saying in a letter to Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice John Wimer that she took full responsibility for her words.

“No act, including a criminal act, justifies the denial of basic dignity inherent in the language used by Judge Odinet,” Williams said in a statement. “That a judge and former prosecutor so comfortably employed a racial epithet serves as a telling reminder that the attitudes which fostered mass incarceration continue to undermine our pursuit of equal justice.”

Earlier this month, two Black defendants filed motions requesting Odinet recuse herself from their cases on the grounds that she was prejudiced against African Americans. Both Gov. John Bel Edwards and the president of the National Bar Association called for her resignation alongside others.

“Judge Odinet’s statements were absolutely disgusting and as President of the National Bar Association, I am calling for her to resign from her post as judge. I too, am a judge and as a member of the bench and a Black man, I am highly offended, and do not believe Odinet deserves to be in the ranks of the judiciary,” said National Bar Association President Carlos Moore.

“After much reflection and prayer, and in order to facilitate healing within the community, I hereby resign as judge of the Lafayette City Court effective immediately,” Odinet wrote on Friday. Odinet’s attorney Dane Ciolino echoed her statement, saying that Odinet was “humiliated, embarrassed, and sorry for what she has done and the harm she has caused to the community.”

Those statements aren’t enough to stop the fallout from her actions, however. “…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 prosecutor,” Williams said.

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