August 6, 2011 by USA Post
Katrina Shootings, A federal jury on Friday convicted five former police officers or the New Orleans civil rights violations at one of the lowest moments of the city police in the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina: the shooting death of a teenager and a man with mental disabilities to cross a bridge in search of food and aid.
Three officers and one former officer was convicted of civil rights violations in the shooting that killed two people and wounded four other people on the Danziger Bridge less than a week after the storm. The four one retired police sergeants were convicted of participating in a blatant cover-up that included a gun planted false witnesses and falsified reports. The five men were convicted of all 25 charges he faced.
The test case was a high risk of the Justice Department’s efforts to rid the department of police corruption and brutality. A total of 20 current or former police officers in New Orleans were charged last year in a series of federal investigations. Most cases focus on actions during the aftermath of the August 29, 2005, the storm, which sank in the flooded city in a state of anarchy and despair.
“The officers today condemned abused his power and violated the public trust in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina – fueling one of the most devastating to the people of New Orleans,” said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Friday in a statement. “I am today’s verdict brings the hope of justice for victims
And their families, helps to heal the community and contributes to restoring public confidence in the New Orleans Police Department. ”
Shaun Clarke, a defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor who moved from New Orleans to Houston after Katrina, said it was a verdict of “enormous for the government. In all cases of alleged misconduct by police officers after Katrina This was the one that had the highest national profile. ”
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten echoed that, saying that the verdict sends a message that “public officials, especially law enforcement, which will be held accountable and that any abuse of power will have serious consequences.”
Convicted in the shootings were police sergeants in New Orleans. Robert Gisevius and Kenneth Bowen, director Anthony Villavaso and former officer Robert Faulcon. They face possible life sentences. The five defendants are scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 14.
Jurors found guilty Faulcon the shooting of Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally disabled, but the jury decided that death is not equivalent to murder. Faulcon, Gisevius, Bowen and Villavaso were convicted in the death of 17-year-old James Brissette. Members of the jury had to decide whether Brissette was killed because they have none of the defendants individually responsible for causing his death.
The retired sergeant. Arthur “Archie” Kaufman and four other defendants were also convicted of participating in a coverup. Kaufman, who was assigned to investigate the fatal encounter on the bridge, was not charged in the shooting.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who invited the Justice Department last year to conduct a thorough review of the police, said the verdict “to close the issue for a dark chapter in the history of our city.”
In March, the Justice Department issued a blistering report that said New Orleans police officers have often used deadly force without justification, repeated arrests and participated in unconstitutional racial discrimination. Landrieu has said he expects the federal review to carry out court-ordered reforms.
Five former officers pleaded guilty to participating in a coverup of the killings of the bridge and testified during the trial. Another former officer, retired Sgt. Dugue Gerard has another trial scheduled to begin in September.
Mother Brissette, Sherrel Johnson said he was relieved by the verdict after “a long, hard six years” and now tries to move on. However, he regretted that her son has lost.
“For him there is no party, no drinking, no nothing. My son never has anything,” he said.
Families of Madison in a statement that the family had to wait six years to “find out what really happened on that bridge.”
Madison Madison Sister Jackie Brown read the statement, also said that after an event like Katrina, “all citizens, no matter what color or what kind, deserve protection.”
After the verdict, the Department of Justice Attorney Bobbi Bernstein was excited, hugging the families of Madison and Brissette and the hand of two of the sisters Madison.
Defense attorney Roger Kitchens, who represented Villavaso, said he believed that negative media coverage of the case tainted the jury.
“Right now, I do not think it possible that a police officer from New Orleans to get a fair trial in the city of New Orleans. And I do not think that one today,” he said.
Prosecutors said the police had no justification for shooting unarmed and defenseless people trying to cross the bridge in search of food and help a few days after Katrina.
Defense lawyers argued, however, that police fired on the bridge before it returned fire.
Faulcon, the only defendant to testify, said he was “paralyzed with fear” when he shot and killed Madison, as he chased him and his brother, Lance Madison. Faulcon not deny that he shot an unarmed man in the back, but he testified that he believed Ronald Madison was unarmed and posed a threat.
Prosecutors said Kaufman week pulled out a gun to his house after the shooting and turned on the evidence, trying to pass a gun belonging to Lance Madison. Police arrested Lance Madison on charges of attempted murder but a jury acquitted him later.
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