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Drama rolls on in wake of Henry Glover retrial

30th December 2013   ·   0 Comments

The drama surrounding the murder of an unarmed Black man by an a former NOPD officer and the subsequent coverup continued to unfold last week, more than eight years after the crime occurred.

On Monday, December 23, a week after a group of community activists, civil rights leaders and members of the family of Henry Glover stormed the coroner’s officer and demanded that the investigation of Glover’s death be reopened, Orleans Parish Coroner Frank Minyard announced that he is pulling out of the coroner’s race.

“I still love the job, but the position needs young blood, somebody who’s computer literate,” Minyard, who has held the post for 40 years, told WWL-TV. “I feel like it would be selfish for me to continue.”

Minyard said he would throw his support behind forensic psychiatrist Jeffrey Rouse, a deputy in the coroner’s office. The other two candidates in the coroner’s race are Dr. Dwight McKenna, an internist, surgeon and former school board member who is Black, and Dr. Vincent Culotta Jr., an obstetrician/gynecologist, who is white.

Minyard’s term ends March 31, 2014.

McKenna, who ran unsuccessfully for coroner in 2002 and 2010, called Minyard’s withdrawal from the race a “scam.

“Obviously, he and his assistant thought no one would run,” McKenna told nola.com.

With a nod to the Henry Glover case, McKenna told nola.com that Minyard often failed to determine a cause of death in high-profile cases.

“I think he’s abused the office,” McKenna said. “His diagnoses have been, to say the least, suspect. He’s actually protected the guilty and disadvantaged the poor.”

On Monday, Dec. 16, about 200 supporters joined members of the family of Henry Glover and forced their way into the office to demand a meeting with Minyard and convinced the longtime coroner to reopen the Henry Glover case. The group repeatedly shouted out that it sought justice for Henry Glover, the 31-year-old man slain by a former NOPD officer in the parking lot of a Westbank strip mall eight years ago. After officer David Warren was convicted and sentenced to 26 years in prison, he was granted a new trial by a federal appeals court. Earlier this month, a federal jury acquitted Warron during his retrial even though the former cop admitted that he shot Glover.

After Warren’s acquittal, the Glover family decided it would demand that Minyard classify Glover’s death as a homicide so that the Orleans Parish district attorney could file murder charges against Warren.

Video footage of Minyard telling the Glover family that he would share all of the documents he has about Henry Glover’s death with them — even if it was against the law for him to do so — aired on local cable-access show “OurStory” on Wednesday, December 18.

On Friday, December 20, members of the Glover family and about two dozen supporters arrived at the coroner’s office to pick up the documents promised by Minyard two days earlier and discovered that the doors to the building had been locked and there was a noticeable police presence on the site. In a recent interview, NAACP branch president Danatus King said that the group noticed that the coroner’s office was allowing others to enter the building but prevented members of the Glover family and their supporters from doing so. At one point, he said, an NOPD officer was sent outside to tell the group that Minyard would meet with two of three members of the Glover family and Danatus King. After telling the cop that the group only came to pick up the documents promised to them by Minyard, the cop re-entered and returned to them a short time later with three pieces of paper. King said those three pages were a far cry from the documents they viewed on December 16 while meeting with Minyard.

Members of the Glover family felt that they had been duped by the Coroner’s Office but vowed to return on Thursday, Dec. 26, to receive Minyard’s report he told them on December 16 would take a week to 10 days to complete.

W.C. Johnson, a member of Community United for Change and host of local cable-access show “OurStory,” said that after witnessing how “distraught” Minyard was about being questioned on December 16 by members of the Glover family and the Black community, he suspected that the coroner might say whatever it took to get him out a tight situation.

“What was unknown was the origins of his bewilderment,” Johnson told The Louisiana Weekly. “…[H]is willingness to refuse access to the family or even entertain his own commitment for production of documents leads some to believe that Frank Minyard has been a racist from the beginning and remains one today. Reneging on your word is one of the greatest sins known to man. No matter how much the criminal justice system tries to convince the non-white population that it is fair and equitable it becomes apparent that separate and unequal laws apply to Blacks, which echoes Judge Roger B. Taney’s words in the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford that said Blacks had no rights that whites were bound by law to respect.”

Johnson said that he didn’t expect the coroner to keep his word and look objectively at the evidence presented in the Henry Glover case. “Personally, I expect collusion within the criminal justice system to protect David Warren,” he told The Weekly. “Without a determination of homicide as cause of death for Henry Glover, it will be a hard sell to get D.A. Cannizzaro to charge David Warren for Henry Glover’s murder, which procures additional responsibility for unjust treatment on the electoral process.

“We cannot indict the criminal justice system without indicting the Black political action committees,” Johnson added. “These are the local trusted neighbors who get the Black vote out to elect the oppressive criminal justice system along with the other elected officials. Between the political action committees and the ministers, Black folks are between a rock and a hard place.”

Also last week, former NOPD officer Gregory McRae, who was convicted three years ago of burning Henry Glover’s remains in a car on a Westbank levee in 2005 and sentenced to 17 years, asked a federal judge to delay his resentencing until after a ruling has been made on his bid for a new trial in the racially polarizing case.

McRae’s resentencing hearing is set for January 9 and a hearing on his efforts to get a new trial is scheduled for January 30.

A federal appeals court upheld McRae’s conviction but ordered a judge to repentance him.

McRae does not deny setting Henry Glover’s body on fire.

Like former NOPD officer David Warren, McRae hopes to convince a federal jury that the conditions under which he burned Henry Glover’s remains should be weighed heavily in the outcome of his trial and/or resentencing hearing.

U.S. District Judge Lance Afrik has not yet issued a ruling on McRae’s request for a sentencing delay, which was filed on Monday, December 23.

An attorney for McRae told nola.com earlier this month that a recently discovered psychological report shows that his client was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the harrowing days after Hurricane Katrina.

“Even after being tried and convicted, none of these cops think they should spend a day in jail for taking the lives of unarmed Black people,” Ramessu Merriamen Aha, a New Orleans businessman and former congressional candidate, told The Louisiana Weekly. “That pretty much sums up the mindset and culture of the NOPD. And they wonder why so many people are fighting for a complete overhaul of the department.”

“This police department and its officers have a long history of killing Black and poor people without being held accountable,” the Rev. Raymond Brown, a community activist and president of National Action Now, told The Louisiana Weekly.

Johnson said efforts are underway to bring greater cooperation and communication between Black grassroots organizations and take whatever steps are necessary to raise public consciousness about racial injustice and discrimination in New Orleans.

“The Glover family has no business fighting this battle alone,” W.C. Johnson said. “The streets of New Orleans should be Black with faces clogging the highways and byways of the city. Henry Glover was not the first loved one to suffer illegal death at the hands of the NOPD — Henry Glover will not be the last. Just ask the family of Adolph Grimes III for confirmation of that fact. As long as Black folks stay at home, away from direct action concerning abuse and oppression; abuse and oppression will continue and amplify.

“The games the politicians play with Black folks’ lives are cause enough for every Black man, woman and child to be in the streets,” Johnson added.

With the annual Kwanzaa observance under way and the national MLK Jr. holiday and Black History Month looming on the horizon, Johnson said Black residents should be encouraged by recent events despite setbacks in the Henry Glover case.

“The confrontation with the Cor­oner’s Office was but one example of the need to stand up and be counted,” he told The Weekly. “Yes, it was a small victory. Yes, we will suffer defeats again. But the energy that ascended from the community coming together was proof positive that direct action works. If we were able to move Frank Minyard with 200 people, imagine what 2,000 people can do. …[W]ith 2,000 people committed to bring about change, we can change the entire political landscape of New Orleans. We can employ more locals, elevate the education of our children… and stop the senseless murders and crime. With 2,000 people we can get David Warren and Merritt Landry indicted. And we can definitely ensure better transit and Sewerage and Water Board rates and services. The more people who stand up, the more benefits we all can enjoy. And without a doubt we could get the Reverend Avery Alexander statue placed in front of City Hall. With less than one percent of the 369,250 residents of New Orleans, we can change this part of the world.”

This article originally published in the December 30, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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