Inside of the Danziger – Motion for a New Trial are 129 pages worth of reasons why Federal Judge Kurt Engelhardt believes five former NOPD officers tried and convicted for shooting and killing two men on the Danziger Bridge days after Hurricane Katrina did not get a fair trial. Now the Danziger case, one that had wrapped up in years ago, is going back to court.
“It’s rare that you have a reversal in any case really, it really is, but to have a reversal in this one? I mean in terms of New Orleans criminal justice, this is the biggest case in decades,” says attorney and legal analyst Robert Jenkins.
Jenkins calls the move extraordinary.
Inside the document Judge Englehardt reveals three government attorneys allegedly posted “inflammatory” comments anonymously online about the case. Former U.S. prosecutors Sal Perricone and Jan Mann previously resigned, but it’s the first time we’re hearing Karla Dobinski, a government prosecutor out of Washington, D.C., also allegedly posted anonymously.
The filing goes on to say former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten knew about it and did nothing.
“It deprived the defendants of a true and fair trial,” says Jenkins.
Former NOPD officers Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon, and Anthony Villavaso were convicted of firing on unarmed civilians and killing two men. Another former cop, Arthur Kaufman, was convicted of covering up the crime.
Defense Attorney Eric Hessler who represented Gisevius says, “We’re pleased that the officers will get a chance to defend themselves with a fair trial this time around.”
The family of Ronald Madison who was killed by police on the Danziger is disappointed. Ronald’s brother Dr. Romell Madison says, “We are extremely disappointed in Judge Engelhardt’s decision granting a new trial in the Danziger Criminal Civil Rights Case. It has been over eight years since our brother Ronald was shot and killed on the Danziger Bridge and our brother Lance was falsely arrested and framed on eight counts of murder. This decision reopens this terrible wound not only for our family, but our entire community. From the beginning of this ordeal our family has sought justice, not just for ourselves but for all the victims and families. We urge the Department of Justice to appeal Judge Engelhardt’s decision. Our fight for justice continues.”
Tonight all the defendants are serving time in federal prisons and are scattered throughout the country. WGNO has been told all five could petition for a release pending a new trial.
Judge Engelhardt has given attorneys on both sides a month to prepare to select a trial date.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the newly appointed U.S. District Attorney Kenneth Polite, who now takes over for Jim Letten, can appeal the judge’s ruling, but many in the legal community feel that is unlikely given all the details in the Danziger – Motion for a New Trial.