Two weeks ago, a federal jury handed down the first guilty verdicts in a broad federal probe of misconduct by New Orleans police in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Jurors convicted three current or former New Orleans police officers in connection with the killing of Henry Glover, whose body was burned after he was shot by a police officer in 2005. The details of Glover’s death were first disclosed by ProPublica more than two years ago in an investigative partnership with the Nation Institute and the Nation magazine.
In all, five police officers had been charged for involvement in the killing and its cover-up. Two were acquitted. Our partners at the New Orleans Times-Picayune interviewed four jurors in the case who opened up about their deliberations, their doubts about the innocence of the acquitted cops, and their belief that the law still applies in times of crisis and upheaval. From those interviews:
"You had to think about it, that was the setting," said [Kelly] Rasmus, the jury forewoman. "But you can't say people did this because of Katrina. The rules still apply. All of us tried to take the factor out. The Police Department is there to protect us, especially in times of crisis, when we need them the most. In this case, the storm needed to be put aside."
The post-storm period was an "easy time to get away with things," [another juror, Llowellyn] Brown said. "People, I know, are asking: Did Katrina play a part in the verdicts? No."
[Brandon] Myres called the disaster defense a "crock of shit."
Decisions to convict one officer of manslaughter instead of murder came down to the strict, legal definitions of each, the jurors said. More from the Times-Picayune:
The group leaned heavily on tangible evidence and less on witness testimony, especially in light of the many admitted lies and contradictory statements on the part of those who took the stand.
In the end, insufficient evidence in some cases led to some acquittals, the jurors said. At least one of the convicted officers has requested a new trial, the Associated Press reported earlier this week.
For more on other cases of police shootings in aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, check out our Law & Disorder series.