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Harry Connick Sr., longtime New Orleans district attorney and singer’s dad, dies at 97

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Harry Connick Sr., who served as the district attorney for three decades in New Orleans, passed away on Thursday at the age of 97. Later, allegations were made that his staff had concealed evidence, benefiting defendants. Connick Sr. was pronounced dead at his home in New Orleans, as announced by his spokesperson on Thursday. The death occurred silently, with his wife Londa, children Suzanna, and musician/actor Harry Connick Jr. Connick Sr.’s cause of death was not disclosed. In the 1973 elections, Connick defeated prosecutor Jim Garrison. As the political power base in the city changed among African Americans, he effectively gained interracial support and won re-election four times. After an undefeated tenure, Connick retired in 2003.

Legacy of Harry Connick Sr.: Longest-Serving District Attorney in New Orleans

Although there were suspicions later that his office had suppressed evidence benefiting defendants, it caused him distress. The case gained prominence following a 2011 Supreme Court decision in a case brought by John Thompson. After spending 14 years on death row for a murder he did not commit, Thompson was released in Louisiana, a fact concealed by investigators and prosecutors before his original trial. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, overturned a $14 million award for Thompson, stating that the New Orleans District Attorney’s office should not be punished for failing to adequately train prosecutors in sending evidence to defendants. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg criticized Connick’s “deliberate indifference to known risks.”

In 2014, the death penalty for Reginald Adams was overturned, resulting in a 34-year prison sentence. The Innocence Project’s attorneys in New Orleans provided evidence that investigators and prosecutors had concealed crucial information before Adams’ death sentence in 1990. Later, Adams received a $1.25 million settlement. Connick denied commenting on specific cases on multiple occasions. However, in a sports-based interview with The Times-Picayune in 2012, he defended his legacy. “My record speaks for itself. I’m the only person with more yards,” Connick stated. “I have enough to look at myself and say who I am,” he continued. “What I did is what it is. Great? No. But I haven’t taken any action to accept that office. Absolutely not.”

Supreme Court Decision: Impact on the Case of John Thompson

During his tenure from 1973 to 2003, Connick maintained the record for the longest-serving district attorney. Public servants who dedicate a significant part of their lives to their communities, like Connick’s family, contribute significantly. In a statement, he said, “In this moment of sorrow, our sympathies are with the Connick family.” Connick, a Navy veteran of World War II, who had seen action in the South Pacific, assisted his son’s development as a talented pianist, developing presentations for youth with notable New Orleans musicians like Ubie Blake and Badi Rich.

Reginald Adams’ Murder Conviction Overturned: Unearthed Details

In 1973, when Connick faced Garrison, he was a three-time district attorney whose notoriety extended far beyond New Orleans, as he was an unanticipated federal target. In a 2001 interview, Connick said, “I worked as a legal aid lawyer for many years three years, and I learned directly about the Garrison office’s operations.” “I had decided that I could perform better than Jim Garrison,” he continued. Known as “Big Jim,” the 6-foot-7-inch Garrison gained worldwide infamy for concealing a massive murder and the unsuccessful prosecution of New Orleans businessman and District Attorney John F. Kennedy’s assassination investigation.

Facing the loss of a significant case, Connick pushed back against Garrison. Connick won his redemption campaign by just over 2,000 votes. During the 1970s and 1980s, Connick led a campaign against obscenity and closed adult bookstores in the French Quarter using 19th-century moral laws. In the 1990s, Connick became the target of anti-death penalty organizations as he asserted that prosecutors should follow through with the death penalty in most first-degree murder cases.

Conic’s Defense and Legacy: Interview with Times-Picayune in 2012

Conic had a direct encounter as a defendant when in 1990 federal officials accused him of promoting and supporting gambling operations. According to the allegations, Conic provided a convicted gambler with gambling records so that the individual could advance his covert betting. After the accused was not found guilty, Conic won his fourth election that year. In his later years, Conic remained vibrant and enthusiastic on stage, performing weekly shows in French Quarter nightclubs. He showcased standards popularized by artists like Louis Prima, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra. Even in his later years, Conic engaged in lively dancing and gestures towards the audience, although his voice often wavered. His songs also carried a political message, and through his performances, Conic built strong connections with both African American artists and voters in a city where nearly 70% of voters were African American at that time.

Record-Breaking Tenure: District Attorney, 1973-2003

To sustain politically, Conic needed the support of influential African American politicians. He praised Mayor Marc Morial, whose supporters actively campaigned for Conic after defeating a black opponent in 1996. Eddie Jordan, a former American lawyer known for overseeing the successful re-election campaign of Louisiana’s former governor Edwin Edwards, became Conic’s successor when he decided not to run for re-election in 2002. In 2000, Edwards faced bribery charges for taking bribes from groups competing for licenses to operate the Riverboat casino during Conic’s last term in the 1990s.

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