Jury Sides with Doctor in Katrina 'Mercy Killings' A New Orleans grand jury did not indict Dr. Anna Pou, a physician accused of euthanizing four critically ill hospital patients in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Last summer, Pou and two nurses were charged with giving the patients lethal injections.
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Jury Sides with Doctor in Katrina 'Mercy Killings'

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Jury Sides with Doctor in Katrina 'Mercy Killings'

Jury Sides with Doctor in Katrina 'Mercy Killings'

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

There was a major development today in the so-called Katrina mercy killings case in New Orleans. A local grand jury refused to indict the doctor accused of administering lethal injections to four critically ill hospital patients in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. That's when levee breaks flooded the city and brought a breakdown of public order. Dr. Anna Pou was arrested last summer along with two nurses. Prosecutors said the doctor committed murder. She denied it.

Here is her reaction today when the grand jury decided not to indict her.

Dr. ANNA POU (Surgeon): I fell to my knees and I thank God for helping me. This has been an extremely trying time and a very challenging time.

SIEGEL: NPR's Carrie Kahn has been covering this case since it first broke and joins us now. And Carrie, first, remind us about the case and why the grand jury declined to indict.

CARRIE KAHN: Well, this case centers around what happened in the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina at New Orleans Memorial Hospital. The hospital was flooded. There were lots of patients and staffs still there. There was no power. We heard horrifying stories of just what transpired until they could finally evacuate those patients and the staff four days later. There - immediately following those evacuations in the months that ensued, there were rumors that some of the elderly patients at memorial hospital had been euthanized.

NPR did investigate that, and reported early in 2006 that there were affidavits of eyewitnesses who told state officials that they had seen Dr. Pou and two nurses filling syringes with lethal doses of medicine and entering patients' rooms. And then last summer, the attorney general of Louisiana stunned the entire state and arrested the doctor and two nurses. They were not charged at that time. And the attorney general handed the whole case over to the local D.A. Coming fast forward to recent history here, the D.A. made a deal with the nurses just recently that in exchange for their testimony that they would not be charged in the case. And then, today, the grand jury came back and said they were not going to indict Dr. Anna Pou.

SIEGEL: Well, we just heard part of Dr. Pou's reaction. She also talked about the message that she hopes this case sends. And let's take a listen to that.

Dr. POU: All of us need to remember the magnitude of human suffering that occurred in the city of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, so that we can assure that this never happen again, and that no health care professional should ever be falsely accused in a rush to judgment.

SIEGEL: Carrie, one official who crusaded hard for Dr. Pou's arrest and prosecution was Louisiana's attorney general, Charles Foti. What was his reaction today the grand jury's refusal to indict?

KAHN: He spoke very briefly to reporters in Baton Rouge, and he said that he was deeply, deeply regretful of the decision of the decision of the local grand jury, and that he did not agree with them. And then, stunningly, he said that he believed as many as nine people had been injected with a lethal dose of medicine in memorial hospital. And that was quite stunning to hear. And he criticized the local D.A. He said that there were not - experts were not called to testify and he was very upset about it.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Carrie Kahn. Thank you very much, Carrie.

KAHN: You're welcome.

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