The Danzinger Bridge convictions, which put five former New Orleans police officers into jail, were overturned by a federal judge Tuesday, who cited “grotesque prosecutorial misconduct” in his decision to order a retrial. U.S. District Judge Kurt Englehardt, who presided over the original case, threw out the April 2012 convictions, reports CBS News on Sept. 17.
On September 4, 2005, just six days after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans, the New Orleans Police Department responded to an incident at the Danzinger Bridge on Rte. 90 over the city’s Industrial Canal.
Residents needing help in the flood-stricken area had fired shots to attract the attention of police. Responding to a shooting call, the five officers – Archie Kaufman, Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavaso – opened fire on unarmed civilians, killing two and wounding four.
The two individuals killed were 17-year-old James Brissette and a mentally disabled man, 40-year-old Ronald Madison, who was shot in the back with a shotgun as he attempted to flee the police.
The five men collaborated and concocted a cover-up story for their crime, saying they were responding to an “officer down” call and that when they arrived, four people were firing shots at them.
In August 2011, a New Orleans Federal Court jury convicted the five officers of a host of charges stemming to the deprivation of civil rights. In April 2012, the men were sentenced to spend six to 65 years in prison.
Now, the men will stand trial once again.
Judge Kurt Englehardt ordered a new trial, citing what he termed “highly unusual, extensive and truly bizarre actions” by the prosecutors, specifically the knowing leak to media outlets of privileged information in an attempt to sway public opinion.
Judge Englehardt wrote: “This case started as one featuring allegations of brazen abuse of authority, violation of law and corruption of the criminal justice system; unfortunately, though the focus has switched from the accused to the accusers, it has continued to be about those very issues. After much reflection, the Court cannot journey as far as it has in this case only to ironically accept grotesque prosecutorial misconduct in the end.”