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New trial begins for former N.O. cop who shot Henry Glover

9th December 2013   ·   0 Comments

For the second time in three years, a federal jury was selected to hear the Justice Department’s case against a former New Orleans police officer who shot and killed a man outside a Westbank strip mall less than a week after Hurricane Katrina.

Monday marked the beginning of he retrial of former NOPD Officer David Warren on manslaughter charges in the death of Henry Glover, 31, whose body was burned in a car by a different officer.

Warren was one of nearly two dozen former members of the embattled New Orleans Police Department who were charged with various crimes in six cases by the U.S. Attorney’s Office over the past eight years. Most of those officers’ cases revolved around several high-profile post-Katrina cases including the Danziger Bridge Massacre, the Henry Glover murder case and the Danny Brumfield case, which involved the gunning down of Brumfield outside the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center shortly after Hurricane Katrina by a former NOPD officer. Although former NOPD Officer Ronald Mitchell was never charged with shooting Brumfield, he was charged with lying during a deposition and sentenced to 20 months behind bars.

The Henry Glover case is unrelated to any other federal case, including those alleging police misconduct, U.S. District Judge Lance Africk told 47 potential jurors. He specifically mentioned deadly shootings on a bridge after the storm in 2005. Warren’s attorneys argued in October that some prospective jurors had mistakenly believed that Warren was among officers involved in that case.

“This is not the Danziger Bridge case and has nothing to do with it,” Africk told this group.

The New Orleans Police Department, plagued by years of complaints about corruption, came under renewed scrutiny after a string of police shootings in the chaotic aftermath of the 2005 storm, The Associated Press reported. In 2011, after a series of community tribunals during which DOJ officials heard the stories of unconstitutional policing from New Orleans residents for more than two years, the Justice Department issued a scathing report alleging the agency engaged in a pattern of discriminatory and unconstitutional conduct. The city and the Justice Department reached an agreement calling for sweeping changes in police policy, though the city has since objected to the potentially expensive agreement.

Warren was serving a 26-year prison sentence when the U.S. 5th Circuit of Appeals overturned convictions handed down in 2010, finding ruling that he should have been tried separately from four other officers charged with participating in a cover-up designed to make Glover’s shooting appear justified. Photographs of Glover’s remains and “severely emotional” testimony about the burning and cover-up prejudiced jurors against Warren, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

Outside the courthouse Monday afternoon, Rebecca Glover, Henry Glover’s aunt and a number of grassroots community leaders criticized the decision by the federal court to grant Warren a new trial because is no doubt that Warren shot Glover on Sept. 2, 2005.

“We should not even have to go back through this.” Rebecca Glover, told reporters at a Dec. 2 press conference. “This was done already. We had put it behind us and tried to move on. Now we’re not moving on anymore. We haven’t got justice.”

Glover echoed the sentiments of the loved ones of many of the NOPD shooting victims when she said last week that the families should not be forced to suffer because of the failure of federal prosecutors to carry out their professional duties.

“They should have known better,” Glover said, referring to the decision by the U.S.Attorney’s Office to try all five NOPD officers together. “They should have done the job right.”

Jurors must decide whether the shooting was justified. During his first trial, Warren testified that he believed Glover had a gun when he fired at him from a second-floor balcony at a strip mall where he was guarding a police substation.

Warren was among 20 officers charged in a series of federal investigations of alleged police misconduct in New Orleans _ cases many saw as catalysts for healing the city’s post-Katrina wounds. Five pleaded guilty; three were acquitted; four convictions were upheld; seven await retrials after their convictions were overturned; and another trial ended in a mistrial because of a prosecutor’s ill-advised remarks.

According to The Associated Press, Judge Africk also asked the group of potential jurors whether they accepted as fact that the extraordinary times after the hurricane did not include government-imposed martial law.

“We hope the jury won’t be all white or majority-white,” the Rev. Raymond Brown, a community activist and president of National Action Now, said at Monday’s press conference with the Glover family.

After a day and a half of questioning about prospective jurors, a jury of eight whites and four Blacks was seated Tuesday. The jury has eight men and four women, with only one juror from New Orleans. The alternate jurors — two men and two women — are all white.

Although Rebecca Glover and others had expressed concerns about the racial makeup of the jury in Warren’s retrial on Monday, Glover said Tuesday that she was “satisfied” with the seated jury.

“I’m pleased with it,” Rebecca Glover told nola.com Tuesday night. “I think there should be six Black and six white, but four is better than none.”

The trial, which started Wednesday, is expected to last about two weeks, which means a verdict may be delivered in the midst of the holidays.

“I don’t think that’s an accident,” the Rev. Raymond Brown told The Louisiana Weekly Monday. “I think it was purposely done too have the verdict lost amid the hustle and bustle of the holidays and the end-of-the-year festivities. Someone is hoping that the people of New Orleans and others will be so busy celebrating the holidays that they overlook the verdict, but we’re not going to let that happen.”

“The only thing that would be worst than granting this officer a new trial would be letting him get away with murder,” Ramessu Merriamen Aha, a former congressional candidate and New Orleans businessman, told The Louisiana Weekly Thursday. “The law is very clear about someone — even a police officer — not being allowed to use deadly force unless it is warranted. There is no way to justify what former NOPD Officer David Warren did to Henry Glover.”

Ramessu Merriamen Aha said Glover’s death was made even more difficult by the fact that someone removed his skull from the burned-out car that was abandoned on the Mississippi River levee. “Talk about a lack of respect for human life and dignity,” he told The Louisiana Weekly. “Do you really think someone who could do something as heartless as remove a human skull from a murder scene should even be allowed on the police force?

“The funny thing is, the mayor, police chief and other elected officials have not a single word about this cowardly act that is both heinous and despicable,” Ramessu Merriamen Aha added.

“Residents and people in general need to watch the Glover retrial very closely,” W.C. Johnson, a member of Community United for Change and host of local cable-access show “OurStory,”told The Louisiana Weekly. “The ramification of what caused this retrial are very telling about the attitudes and general disposition of the criminal justice system in Louisiana as well as America. One can make a very convincing case for premeditated judicial error which would compensate the accused in case of a guilty verdict. Laymen must remember the three pillars of the court; the judge; the defense and prosecuting attorneys; and the police officers. All fraternal members of a brotherhood that protects each other at any cost.

“It is imperative that the non-membership alliance, or residents and citizens, protect their constitutional rights to fair trials by registering their dismay at the play on ignorance the courts have willfully entered into by allowing the U.S. Attorney’s Office to conduct sleight of hand tactics which allowed for the accused to cry foul and receive a new trial,” Johnson added.

Asked what residents can do to ensure that justice is finally done in the Henry Glover case, Johnson said, “Demonstration and civil disobedience needs to line the hallways and streets of New Orleans to register the dissatisfaction with being deprived of our constitutional rights by the three pillars of the criminal justice system who have conspired to save one of their very own.”

During opening arguments Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Fishman told jurors that former Officer David Warren believed that looters were animals that deserved to be shot. “Even though Henry Glover posed no threat … David Warren reached for his personal assault weapon,” Fishman said. “He looked through the magnification red-dot scope and pulled the trigger.”

“He reacted because he thought he was going to be killed. In the totality of the circumstances … it was a reasonable expectation,” defense attorney Julian Murray said.

In testimony Wednesday, Bernard Calloway, a relative who was with him when he was shot by Officer Warren, testified that Henry Glover wash fired upon while lighting a cigarette.

“I heard ‘Pow!’ — a gunshot. I heard a voice that said, ‘Leave now,”’ Calloway told jurors. Calloway said that after he and Glover fled in different directions, he looked back and saw Glover stumble. By the time he looked again, Glover had fallen to the ground. he men fled in opposite directions. Calloway said that he ran back to help Glover, who was bleeding.

“He just said to tell his mama that he loved her. He was holding his chest,” Calloway testified.

“I remember screaming, ‘Why did you do that? You didn’t have to do that, you didn’t have to shoot him.’ “

Patricia Glover, the victim’s sister, told jurors Wednesday about her final moments with her brother.

“That day my brother came to my house and I said, ‘Brother, we have to leave,’” Glover said. “They were going to try and go and get some water. I told him to be careful, and to be safe out there.”

After breaking down on the witness stand Wednesday, Patricia Glover described how it felt to learn that her brother had been shot. “Bernard ran up and said Henry had been shot,” Glover testified. “I started screaming. I ran screaming and hollering, asking [Bernard] to show me where. My brother was on the ground. He was face down.”

After calling eight witnesses, federal prosecutors unexpectedly wrapped up their case Thursday, meaning defense attorneys were likely to begin presenting their case Friday.

The Associated Press reported that Judge Africk summoned prospective jurors to the bench during the selection process to ask privately about their answers on a questionnaire while instrumental music from jazz to soft pop played softly over the court’s sound system. Africk said he did that to make sure their answers didn’t influence those of other potential jurors.

During the first hour of such questioning, he talked with seven potential jurors and dismissed two of them.

Judge Africk dismissed a Black juror Thursday and replaced that person with a white alternating, giving the sitting jury a 9-3 split along racial lines.

Among those who demanded to know why the judge did so was the Rev. Raymond Brown, who said that the public deserves to know why a Black juror in this racially charged case would be dismissed without an explanation. ‘After everything that has happened in this case, from the murder of an unarmed man to the burning of his remains and the coverup, Black residents have every reason to be suspicious of the criminal justice system and questionable moves and decisions made by judges, U.S. attorneys and prosecutors,” Brown told The Louisiana Weekly. “We have a right to know what’s going on.”

The Louisiana Weekly asked W.C. Johnson if the bungling of the Danziger Bridge and Henry Glover cases, prosecutorial misconduct in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, ongoing efforts by the City of New Orleans to undermine implementation of the NOPD consent decree and the Orleans Parish D.A.’s refusal thus far to indict Merritt Landry for the shooting of 14-year-old Marshall Coulter for trespassing on his property underscore the need for a complete overhaul of the local criminal justice system.

Johnson explained that after the Danziger Bridge case, CUC tried to convince the DOJ to investigate the criminal justice system in New Orleans. “Because of the lack of intense pressure from the citizenry, the DOJ found a way to sidestep the issue,” Johnson told The Louisiana Weekly. “It is obvious that Attorney General Holder and President Obama will not intercede unless there is an enormous outcry from the electorate. CUC has made several attempts at securing an appointment with U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite through Steve Parker of the U.S. Attorney’s Office to no avail. Once again, CUC makes itself available to the people of New Orleans. However, the people are the driving force that makes things happen in New Orleans. The people made the consent decree happen, made the indictments of the police officers possible through the help of the Madison family and the people will determine if the criminal justice system will see an overhaul. What is crucial for New Orleans, and the country, is that the rule of law prevail for members of criminal justice system.

“Mr. Kenneth Polite comes into office facing a most difficult challenge,” Johnson added. “Whether to indict Jim Letten and his assistants who blatantly broke the law compounded with gross negligence or to give them a free pass because of their membership in the criminal justice system. I would urge Attorney General Eric Holder to press newly appointed U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite to take a stance and protect the citizens of New Orleans from willful injury by indicting Jim Letten and his staff who manipulated the law and denied the families who are victims of police terror, equal justice and protection under the law.”

Additional reporting by Louisiana Weekly editor Edmund W. Lewis.

This article originally published in the December 9, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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