Petition Created to Change Victim Notification Laws

A woman who lost her brother when he was killed in 1994 said she was unaware that the man who killed her brother was released from prison.Patricia Ceasar-Isidore told WWL that she was not told that one of the suspects who shot her brother, Mitchell Ceasar, in April of 1994, was released from prison 25 years later. Court records obtained by the news station state that Ceasar was shot more than five times during the incident.

George Gilliam, one of the suspects, turned himself in when he was 16-years-old. Gilliam also told authorities that his brother, Weldon Williams, who was a New Orleans Police Department officer, shot Ceasar and another man, according to the court records obtained by the news station.In Gilliam’s statement, he admitted that he picked up Ceasar and another man because of an attempted burglary of cocaine. Gilliam said he fired his gun into the ground to make Ceasar get on his knees before Williams killed him, shooting him eleven or twelve times.

Gilliam and William’s were sentenced to life in prison without parole, probation or suspension of sentence in 1997. Ceasar-Isidore told WWL that she had found Gilliam was released from prison after a quick search online. An article from Tulane University published in November 2018 said that it had sought and received parole for Gilliam. She told the news station she was not informed of his release."The first thing I saw was juvenile lifer gets a second chance," she told the news station. “And I couldn't believe it. I could not believe it."

Ceasar-Isidore has started an online petition to hold the District Attorney’s office, the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Parole, and the Louisiana Office for Victims of Crime accountable for not telling her about Gilliam’s release.“After sitting through hearings, trials, and sentencing, and hearing a sentence of life without probation, parole or suspension of sentence, we left court confident that these men would never see the outside world again,” Ceasar-Isidore wrote. “However, today, Gilliam walks free and no one bothered to notify my family. The system has failed us.”The petition has already reached its original goal of 500 and is on its way to 1,000 signatures. . Ceasar-Isidore wrote in the petition that she hopes that no other family endures the kind of pain she went through.“My wish is that no other family suffers the loss of a loved one, however according to statistics it’s very likely that you or a loved one will be a victim of crime in Louisiana,” wrote Ceasar-Isidore.

“I would hate that on top of being a victim the assailant is freed without your knowledge then making you a victim of the carelessness of our state.”

Louisiana Board of Pardons and Parole Executive Director Francis Abbott told The North Star that the office did send out a letter to her brother’s last known address about Gilliam’s release and said Ceasar-Isidore was not registered in the system at the time of his hearings.Abbott also noted to The North Star that Gilliam’s release resulted from Louisiana Act 277. The act, which is part of a 10-bill criminal justice reform package, granted Louisiana's 300 incarcerated people due to juvenile life-sentence the chance for parole.

The Supreme Court made the decision in 2016 that incarcerated people who were young when they committed crimes should be given a second chance at rehabilitation, according to the article published by Tulane University.Abbott called WWL and informed Ceasar-Isidore about the law, but Ceasar-Isidore is still upset over Gilliam’s previous hearings.

"We never thought we'd have to deal with either of those guys being free again. It's not fair. It's not right," she told the news station.The state of Louisiana has the third highest number of juveniles serving life sentences, according to the article published in Tulane University. As of 2017, Michigan has 363 juvenile lifers and Pennsylvania has 517 juvenile lifers in prison at the time of the Supreme Court decision, according to the Associated Press.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.