When five former New Orleans police officers were found guilty of shooting unarmed civilians on Danziger Bridge just after Hurrcaine Katrina struck, there was a sense that justice was finally served.
The shooting occured on September 4, 2005 when the five officers responded to a call that someone had been shooting from the the bridge. According to the Department of Justice, the officers began shooting indiscriminately into the crowd, killing two men–a teenager named James Brissette and 40-year-old Ronald Madison, a man with mental disabilities. Four others were shot, including Susan Bartholomew, who lost an arm in the shooting. The officers then engaged in a cover up to make the shootings appear justified, a judge ruled.
In 2011, the officers were found guilty of a combined 25 counts of civil rights violations and four of the officers were sentenced to between 45 to 60 years in prison.
But those convictions were recently thrown out after a U.S. judge ordered a retrial in the case after “grotesque prosecutorial misconduct” after three lawyers posted anonymous comments on a news website. From the BBC:
Former US Attorney Jim Letten resigned in December 2012 after two top prosecutors in his regional office admitted posting anonymous comments about the case on nola.com, the website of the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper.
A wider investigation found a third lawyer, based in the justice department’s civil rights division in Washington DC also posted anonymous comments on the website during the last week of the trial.
“NONE of these guys should had have [sic] ever been given a badge,” one of the lawyers wrote under an assumed username.
“We should research how they got on the police department, who trained them, who supervised them and why were they ever been [sic] promoted.”
A family member of one of the men killed on the bridge told the BBC that the judge’s decision to retry the case has re-opened a “terrible wound.”