Justice Department Goes After Danziger Bridge Case Judge!!
I sort of saw this coming, I thought U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt overstepped his authority when he ordered a new trial for five New Orleans cops in the Danzinger Bridge shootings. Turns out the Justice Department agreed with me and then some, questioning the impartiality of Engelhardt, a most serious charge. The Justice Department wants to force Engelhardt to recuse himself from future proceedings if the officers are retried.
The depraved Danziger Bridge police shootings, right after Hurricane Katrina, injured four and killed two, including a mentally handicapped man and covered up their actions. The Danziger convictions were a big win for the American people over police conduct gone very bad. Engelhardt admonished the U.S. Attorney’s Office over what he condemned as grotesque prosecutorial misconduct after it came out that federal prosecutors had posted anonymous and inflammatory comments under news accounts of the case published on nola.com, while the 2011 trial was going on. While the prosecutors’ behavior was very wrong, there was no evidence those comments influenced jurors or court proceedings at all. Just wishing it so doesn’t make it so.
Engelhardt’s ruling was a slap in the face of the Justice Department, which considered the Danziger convictions a symbolic civil and human rights victory for New Orleanians and all Americans. There are two main scenarios that can play out now. The five officers can be retried if the appeals court doesn’t reverse Engelhardt. Certainly the latter is more preferable but the former is more likely.
Engelhardt flipped the Danziger case upside down in one-of-a-kind fashion, burning the U.S. Attorney’s Office over what he called grotesque prosecutorial misconduct after it was discovered that some prosecutors had anonymously posted comments before, during and after the trial, under news accounts published on a local news site. For the last year, not much has happened except for routine filings by both sides. Now that the Justice Department has weighed in so heavily, things are only going to get more interesting. I do feel sorry for the families of the dead and the injured for all the turns and weird twists they have had to endure in this icon case. When the bad guys get put away you get closure which evaporates when they are freed.