Two years ago an investigator named Taryn Blume for the Orleans Public Defenders was indicted for impersonating a peace officer. Next week, this case goes to trial.
The facts are as follows: In the course of representation of a client on an alleged rape charge, counsel requested a log book for the complaining witness' entry into one of New Orleans’ housing projects. The DA implied that it didn’t exist. The defender-investigator was asked to go confirm this. She went to HANO (Housing Authority of New Orleans), made the request, left her card, and procured the log book (which is a public document).
At some point after, a senior HANO official made the complaint against Taryn, though he and Taryn have never met – not that day at HANO, or since. The DA has chosen to prosecute the case and it is scheduled for trial on January 3rd.
Derwyn Bunton, the chief defender at OPD, placed the investigator on administrative duty, did a thorough internal investigation and is absolutely comfortable that the investigator did nothing wrong. His investigation revealed Taryn’s OPD investigator card in the rolodex of the HANO officials with whom she met. Time may prove differently but neither of those people are expected as witnesses in the prosecution at next weeks’ trial, somehow.
The case is weak but is going forward. This is the second time the DA in New Orleans has prosecuted a defender-investigator (the first was an OPD investigator named Emily Beasley who was charged in 2009 with kidnapping after she interviewed a minor witness with parental permission on the stoop across the street), though those charges were dropped. Apparently, the DA believes that if OPD is going to continue to effectively investigate cases, he must charge OPD investigators criminally in order to intimidate them into stopping. Taryn has a team of lawyers representing her and although, as defenders, we must prepare for injustice, we are hopeful for the right outcome.
NAPD is comfortable with the facts of the case and the problems with the allegations against Taryn, and is acutely aware of the risks associated with not taking a strong position as this case goes to trial. To show our support for Taryn and the investigators in all public defender offices (almost all who have had the common experience of being misidentified by a range of others) and to stall any other effort to charge defender-investigators criminally for doing their jobs, NAPD is writing a letter in support of Taryn, the importance of zealous investigation, and the need for defense programs to operate freely from political interference and intimidation of this kind. 
Taryn has since left OPD, is finishing her MSW, and is interested in pursuing her public defense career as social worker. She’s a defender all the way through, and proof that we cannot be intimidated out of our duties to our clients!
Through our social media campaign, and in other strategies that you may develop, we encourage you to stand with Taryn and with NAPD as we resist the New Orleans District Attorneys’ effort to compromise the right to counsel and the zealous investigations and investigators that justice requires!!