Jury Hears Closing Arguments In Post-Katrina Shooting Lawyers present closing arguments in an important police abuse case in New Orleans Tuesday. Officers are accused of needlessly shooting civilians in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Melissa Block talks to NPR's John Burnett for more.
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Jury Hears Closing Arguments In Post-Katrina Shooting

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Jury Hears Closing Arguments In Post-Katrina Shooting

Law

Jury Hears Closing Arguments In Post-Katrina Shooting

Jury Hears Closing Arguments In Post-Katrina Shooting

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/138935745/138935718" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Lawyers present closing arguments in an important police abuse case in New Orleans Tuesday. Officers are accused of needlessly shooting civilians in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Melissa Block talks to NPR's John Burnett for more.

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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