Jury Hears Closing Arguments In Post-Katrina Shooting
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
NPR's John Burnett has been in the courtroom today, and he joins me now. And John, what are the charges that these officers are facing?
JOHN BURNETT: At that moment there were two unarmed families that were walking over the bridge. They were all African-Americans. As a result of the police shooting, two men die - 17 years old and 40 years old - both dead from shotgun blasts to their backs, and four victims are seriously wounded. The lives of both of these families were devastated by this incident.
BLOCK: So closing arguments in this federal trial today, and let's start with the prosecution. What was their final message to the jury?
BURNETT: And then when the police realized they had shot innocent people, the government also charges they concocted an elaborate cover-up that all the defendants participated in, to a greater or lesser degree. The cover-up included false police reports, planting a weapon, and then falsely prosecuting two of the men on the bridge for shooting at police. And those charges were later dropped.
BLOCK: OK, those are the claims from the government. How is the defense for the police officers going about countering those charges?
BURNETT: New Orleans was flooded; law and order had melted away; the police who had not abandoned their posts were working on their own without supplies, support, leadership; and that the officers on the Danziger Bridge that morning had to make split-second, life-and-death decisions. And so the defense argues the shooting on the bridge was justifiable and reasonable, though tragic and unfortunate for the victims.
BLOCK: That's NPR's John Burnett, reporting from New Orleans. John, thanks very much.
BURNETT: It's been a pleasure.
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