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Another post-Katrina police verdict

15th December 2011   ·   0 Comments

One cop guilty, one acquitted of lying about post-Katrina shooting

A federal jury on this past Friday convicted one New Orleans police officer of lying about circumstances of a fatal shooting outside the city’s Ernest N. Morial Convention Center after Hurricane Katrina.

Federal jurors convicted officer Ronald Mitchell on one count of obstruction of justice and one count of perjury for lying about getting out of his patrol car after the September 2005 shooting and checking the pulse of 45-year-old Danny Brumfield.

Mitchell and Officer Ray Jones were patrolling near the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, where thousands of residents were stranded for days after the 2005 storm.

Mitchell shot and killed Brumfield with a single shotgun blast on Sept. 3, 2005. He was acquitted of two counts of lying about the shooting itself. Jones was also acquitted.

After deliberating for more than eight hours on Thursday, jurors said they were deadlocked on at least one of the six counts. U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance instructed them to return Friday for a second day. The jury returned its verdicts Friday after about one more hour of deliberations on Friday.

According to The Associated Press, witnesses who testified during the trial gave conflicting accounts of the deadly encounter. When Brumfield tried to flag down the officers, he either jumped on the hood of the car Jones was driving or was struck by the vehicle and fell on the hood. One witness said Brumfield exchanged heated words with one of the officers, while another said they didn’t say anything to each other.

“I think it was a good result today, and I think the jury did a great job,” U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said.

Mitchell’s attorney, Kerry Cuccia, thanked the jurors as they filed out of the courtroom and patted his client on his shoulder. Cuccia said he planned to appeal the convictions.

“We recognize the jury had a job to do and feel they worked very diligently though that,” Cuccia told reporters Friday, adding that his client accepted the verdicts.

Eric Hessler, Jones’ lawyer, said after the verdict was read that his client is grateful that the jury believed his testimony.

“It’s kind of bittersweet to him,” Hessler said. “He thinks his partner was put in a bad position and did the best he could do under trying circumstances.”

The case against the officers is one of several Justice Department probes of alleged misconduct by nearly two dozen New Orleans police officers following Katrina.

Last December, a federal jury convicted three NOPD officers and acquitted two others in the death of 31-year-old Henry Glover, who was shot and killed by an officer outside a West Bank strip mall before a different officer burned his body in a car. Glover’s skull was taken from the burned car and is still missing.

In August 2011, five current or former officers were convicted of civil rights violations stemming from deadly shootings of unarmed residents on the Danziger Bridge in eastern New Orleans. Five other former officers pleaded guilty to participating in a cover up that included a planted gun, fabricated witnesses and falsified reports.

The United States Department of Justice issued a scathing report that outlined patterns of widespread police brutality, misconduct and corruption in the NOPD?earlier this year. A consent decree with input from citizens and community organizations is expected to be implemented in the near future that will ideally lead to much-needed reforms in the city’s troubled police department.

This article originally published in the December 12, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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