District attorneys reluctant to seek shorter sentences | Courts

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ANGIE — It had been a long day of mowing brush in the heat, so Jeffrey Fornea and his 69-year-old father rested on their back porch in this small town in Washington Parish. They were sipping Cokes, feet propped up, when they heard a gunshot.

A group of young men in bandanas approached, Jeffrey testified later in court. One hit his father in the head with a pipe. Another took Jeffrey’s wallet. They forced father and son inside and made them open the family safe. The men took about $700, some jewelry, and a red Toucan Sam lunchbox.

Five men were arrested for the robbery in September 2011. Four received prison sentences of 15 to 20 years.

But one, 23-year-old Demenica Westbrook, faced a different fate. In addition to robbery, prosecutors argued that Westbrook had committed aggravated kidnapping by helping coerce the Forneas into the house. In 2013, a jury found Westbrook guilty, and he received the mandatory sentence: life without parole.

Now 34 years old, Westbrook has exhausted his appeals. Louisiana’s governor rarely grants pardons, so Westbrook has only one hope for eventual release: a new Louisiana law that lets prosecutors review old cases and reduce sentences they deem extreme, as long as a judge agrees.

“I’m not asking for immediate release,” Westbrook said in a phone interview. “I’m asking, ‘Don’t let me die in here.’”

Louisiana is one of five states that has recently passed prosecutor-initiated resentencing laws, along with California, Washington, Illinois and Oregon. Five others — New York, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Georgia and Maryland — considered similar bills this year,

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Denver Latino Gangbangers “Doing the White Man’s Job for Them,” Attorney Says

On September 28, Elias Chavez and Tlaloc Chavez, both 23 and unrelated, were each given two life sentences for the 2021 murders of David Lara, 59, and DeAngelo Tafoya, 59 — acts that the Denver Police Department has tied to gangs.

The outcome was expected, but it still shook attorney Jason Flores-Williams, who represented Elias Chavez. Flores-Williams has observed the corrosive influence of Latino gangs in Denver for years, and he feels it’s time to speak frankly about those who participate in such activities.

“The system has culpability here,” he acknowledges. “But ultimately, these kids are destroying themselves and doing the white man’s job for them.”

Flores-Williams stresses that his comments are not at his client or the friends and family who support him — and he doesn’t want his words to give aid and comfort to those he considers enemies.

“I run the risk in saying this stuff of coming across like some jerk-off Sean Hannity,” he notes. “The attitude of people like that disgusts me. They come out of a place of hate for the Latino people and their culture, and I come out of a place of profound love. These statements aren’t made to all of Latino culture. They ‘re made to a certain set that, through almost no choice of their own, are engaging in gang culture and gang activity. And really, at the end of the day, they’re taking all of the potential out there and sticking it in a cage — and that’s killing me inside.”

At around 4:01 pm on April 1, 2021, according to the Denver District Attorney’s Office, DPD officers responded to a 911 call regarding “a shooting involving a tan SUV” near the intersection of Alameda Avenue and Federal Boulevard. The cops found Lara and Tafoya at a bus

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