Law enforcement arrests suspects of criminal activity based upon evidence demonstrating probable cause, burden of proof evincing the suspect committed a crime. A greater burden of proof is required for the State to obtain a conviction. The constitutional standard to obtain a conviction of a defendant in a criminal case is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The evidence in each case of an arrestee is evaluated by an Assistant District Attorney to determine if the evidence meets the constitutional burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. If the evidence presented to a district attorney meets this constitutional level of proof, the constitution charges the District Attorney with the duty to prosecute the case fully within the parameters of the constitution, the statutory law and evidence, as well as the ethical obligations of a prosecutor.
Regarding Terrance Dangerfield, each encounter with law enforcement resulting in his arrest was processed in the manner described above.
On February 20, 2018 Terrance Dangerfield entered a guilty plea to felony obstruction of Justice charge. He received a three-year hard labor sentence. As a result of the plea and hard labor sentence, other pending charges against him were dismissed. This included an Illegal Use of a Weapon charge, which carries a maximum of two years, where no gun or shell casings were recovered, no statement was given by the defendant and no relevant forensic cell phone evidence was recovered. Another case dismissed was an attempted murder where the lead detective was no longer employed with Shreveport Police and was unresponsive to phone calls and letters to secure her presence for trial. No gun was recovered and there were no incriminating statements made by the defendant. Other pending charges were Possession with Intent to Distribute a misdemeanor quantity of marijuana, the non-consensual posting of one private image and Resisting an Officer, which also were dismissed in exchange for the hard labor sentence.
On January 9, 2019, Dangerfield was arrested for Possession of Marijuana over 14 grams, which was a misdemeanor and carried the maximum sentence of six months. He pleaded guilty as charged and received credit for the time he had already served. He had another misdemeanor possession of marijuana which was dismissed pursuant to this guilty plea.
On January 12, 2019, he was arrested for Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance while in Possession of a Gun. He pleaded guilty to the gun charge and received five years at hard labor. The other two charges were dismissed pursuant to the plea and sentence.
Cases are evaluated by prosecutors based upon the evidence and the strength of the evidence meeting the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Decisions about whether a dismissal is appropriate depend upon factors such as whether or not there is a positive identification by witnesses or identification of a suspect by fingerprint evidence, the presence or absence of DNA, whether video evidence is available, the existence of firearms comparisons to shell casings or bullets, the existence of cell phone records and/or GPS location data, the credibility and consistency of witness accounts, the cooperation of witnesses and victims, the existence of admissions or confessions of the accused and the applicability of self-defense among many other factors.
In the year 2022, the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office opened 5,586 total criminal cases of which 3,284 were felonies. In a felony case, each defendant is constitutionally entitled to a jury trial. The First Judicial District Court, with only five criminal court judges, sets approximately 60 one-week jury terms per year. The length of a jury trial varies, but it is possible that one major trial or several shorter trials can be completed per jury week. The sharp disparity between the number of jury terms allotted versus the total number of felons pending trial per year necessitates the resolution of many cases short of a jury trial through the proper evaluation of the case to assure the evidence meets the necessary burden of proof to convict. Pleas are based upon the quality of evidence and the necessary burden of proof. Nationwide, approximately 90 to 95 percent of criminal cases are resolved by pleas. A plea is an absolute necessity in the criminal justice system.
Also in the year 2022, the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office tried approximately 55 jury trials despite a COVID moratorium prohibiting jury trials in the months of January and February. During the first and only jury term so far in 2023, the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office tried three jury trials involving three homicides and three armed robbery charges where convictions were obtained.