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Murder suspect freed while awaiting disposition in his case

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

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“It’s frightening, the level of sloppiness that occurred in Commissioner Friedman’s court,” says Rafael Goyeneche.

Murder suspect Donnell Brown walked free on August 2 before the District Attorney’s office could make a decision in the case.

Brown’s accused of shooting to death 35-year-old Herbert Foster and injuring a 15-year-old girl after a Mother’s Day second line in Gentilly earlier this year.

“As the Commissioner, if you’re releasing a murder suspect from jail under Article 701, it’s very clear what the law says and they have 120 days,” says Goyeneche.

According to the law, prosecutors had 120 days to secure a grand jury indictment against Brown. Police arrested him on June 1, 62 days before Commissioner Jonathan Friedman released him.

“All the Commissioner had to do was open up the file. In that file was the document of the day he was booked in the jail,” says Goyeneche.

Because of staffing issues since January, an Assistant District Attorney does not appear on behalf of the state in Commissioner’s Court, but on August 2, the court claims an ADA did show up before court started and presented to the clerk that August 2 was the 701 release date for Brown.

A spokesperson for the DA’s office said, “Whether or not such a conversation took place, it offers no explanation as to why the Commissioner would abrogate his responsibility to count 120 days from the documented date or arrest before improperly setting the murder suspect free.”

“So here you had enough information to arrest a murder suspect and he was released, not because of his innocence, but because of a clerical mistake and the sloppy work of a Magistrate Commissioner,” says Goyeneche.

After the release, Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell agreed the release was improper and granted a motion to have Brown re-arrested. Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission says the release sends a bad message to the community.

‘When something like this happens, it further erodes confidence in the criminal justice system. People that have information about crimes are more reluctant to step forward and provide that information,” says Goyeneche.

U.S. Marshals and the NOPD’s Violent Offenders Warrant Squad continues to search Brown.

If you know police can find him, call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111. 

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