What is the Danziger Bridge trial? It's a momentous case of police misconduct right after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
Seventeen-year-old James Brissette was killed, and four others -- Jose Holmes, 19; his aunt, Susan Bartholomew, his uncle, Leonard Bartholomew III, and a teenage cousin, Lesha Bartholomew - were wounded. Two brothers, Lance and Ronald Madison, were walking on the bridge, and when they heard the gunfire began to run. The officers chased the brothers down, and injured Ronald, who was later fatally shot in the back as he tried to run away. Lance Madison was arrested and accused of firing at police.
The accusations against Lance Madison were later deemed to be part of a police cover up and dropped.
Seven officers were first indicted in state court in 2008, but federal authorities took the case over after a state judge dropped those initial charges.
In 2010, some of the officers took plea deals, and revealed details of a widespread cover-up that included fabricated witnesses, a planted gun and falsified reports.
So NOPD, with a long history of police corruption, admitted to their misdeeds. Even in the Crescent City, sometimes justice prevails.
Screech. Halt. Stop right there.
Justice may not have prevailed after all, despite sworn confessions of wrong-doing.
Despite witnesses and substantial evidence, plus the police confessions, THE BEAST reports Wednesday:
In a 129-page order, Judge Kurt Engelhardt granted a new trial for the former officers due to what he called “grotesque” misconduct by prosecutors. Englehardt charged prosecutors had created a “prejudicial, poisonous atmosphere” in the trial by posting anonymous comments on nola.com.
Prosecutorial misconduct now jeopardizes the efforts of the survivors of the families inflicted with their losses to get on with their lives. Justice needs to be served, and fairness must always be afforded the innocent, until proven guilty. But of all the states -- Louisiana which uses French law as it's basis -- among other legal anomalies means you're guilty unless proven innocent.
The legal system in Louisiana—unlike that of any other state—derives from the Civil Code established by the French emperor Napoleon in 1804.
From THE UPTOWN MESSENGER (a Louisiana regional magazine)
...in State v. Wischer, 2004-0325 (La. App. 4 Cir. 9/22/04), 885 So.2d 602, another panel of the Fourth Circuit found the opposite, holding that the burden of proof was on the defendant to prove self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence.
The Wischer standard means that any criminal defendant claiming self-defense is effectively guilty until proven innocent, and that the determining issue is decided according to the narrowest of standards – the jury can only feel that the defendant’s guilt has been proven to 51% certainty, and it is still supposed to render a guilty verdict.
So, once again the court will hear a case that on the surface seemed to have been deemed adjudicated and closed. How much nicer it would have been if new evidence was the cause of this retrial, and not poor judgement on the prosecution's side. It'll be interesting to see if the outcome of the second trial is any different from the first.
Here's some video from the Time Picayune which summarizes the most recent turn of events. Does this sound like reason to grant a new trial, or a reason to strictly try the prosecutors for misconduct? Does make you wonder, especially if you were one of the victims or their family.