The jury in the Danziger Bridge police shooting trial handed up guilty verdicts on Friday morning, two days after starting deliberations for five former and current New Orleans Police officers.
The officers are guilty of violating the civil rights of six civilians who were shot as they crossed the bridge on Sept. 4, 2005, just days after Katrina. Two people were killed, Ronald Madison, 40, and James Brisette, 17, and four others were seriously wounded in the shooting.
Prosecutors proved to the jury that officers abused their authority in the shootings and then conspired to cover up their actions, even planting guns and fabricating witnesses to the shooting. However, jurors did not find that the officers’ actions amounted to murder.
Jurors have listened to testimony for six weeks. Federal District Judge Kurt Engelhardt read lengthy instructions to the jury on Wednesday morning, outlining how jurors should delibertate on the case.
Each defendant faced at least 10 counts, ranging from depravation of rights, to using a weapon under the color of law, to conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Jurors found the officers guilty on almost every count against them. Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavaso have been in custody since their arrest. Arthur Kaufman is free on bail.
Five other officers have already pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the bridge shooting and are cooperating with prosecutors.
Outside of court, family members of Ronald thanked prosecutors, the Metropolitan Crime Commission and the media for keeping the case in the public’s mind.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu released a statement on Friday afternoon championing the verdict.
“The verdicts in the Danziger Bridge trial provide significant closure to a dark chapter in our city’s history. We now have an opportunity to turn the page and to heal,” Landrieu’s statement said. “With these verdicts, the American justice system delivered a clear message that no one stands above the law and that police abuse and misconduct will not be tolerated.”
Each defendant faces a lengthy prison sentence. Sentencing is scheduled for December.