Courts

Judge Overturns Police Convictions in Hurricane Katrina Shooting Case

When prosecutorial misconduct meets accusations of police corruption

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A judge has ordered that, due to "grotesque prosecutorial misconduct," five former New Orleans police officers who had been convicted of civil rights violations in relation to the fatal shooting of two unarmed people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina be granted a new trial.

The U.S. District judge ruled Tuesday that prosecutors' "highly unusual, extensive and truly bizarre actions" warrant throwing out the convictions of Archie Kaufman, Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavaso.

Four of the former officers were sentenced in April 2012 to between 38 and 65 years in prison for shooting and killing two unarmed people and wounding four others on September 4, 2005 at the Danziger Bridge. Kaufman was sentenced to six years for his role in covering up the shooting.

Attorneys for the former officers say a series of leaks to news organizations were part of a "secret public relations campaign" that deprived their clients of a fair trial. The former officers' attorneys also cited a series of anonymous online posts by senior prosecutors. Former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten resigned in December 2012 after two of his top deputies acknowledged they had been posting anonymous comments on nola.com, the Times-Picayune's companion website, about cases their office had handled, including the Danziger Bridge investigation.