On Monday a federal judge threw out the convictions of five former New Orleans police officers found guilty of shooting unarmed citizens just days after Hurricane Katrina and subsequently covering up the crime.
Within a month a retrial for the Danziger Bridge shootings will be announced, unless the Justice Department steps in.
U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt cited "grotesque prosecutorial misconduct" when he ordered a new trial. U.S. Justice Department attorney Karla Dobinski allegedly posted anonymous comments about the trial online. Writing under the username “Dipsos,” Dobinski commented on the Times-Picayune’s NOLA.com both before and during the trial.
Engelhardt called her comments a "wanton reckless course of action” and led to a “prejudicial, poisonous atmosphere.”
"With regard to this case, this crucial responsibility was Dobinski's professed single mission: to protect a defendant from use of his compelled testimony by the government," the Engelhardt wrote.
The family of Ronald Madison, who was killed at Danziger, is urging the DOJ to appeal Engelhardt’s decision. A retrial, the family said, "re-opens this terrible wound not only for our family but our entire community."
According to the Times-Picayune, the DOJ released a statement indicating it’s not satisfied with the ruling and will review the decision.
None of the prosecutors in the case ever addressed the jury, Times-Picayune reported.
Former NOPD officers Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon, Anthony Villavaso and Arthur Kaufman were convicted in August 2011 of civil right violations. Six days after Hurricane Katrina rocked New Orleans, the NOPD opened fire on an unarmed family crossing the Danziger Bridge over the Industrial Canal. Two people were killed in the attack and four others were injured.
Four officers were convicted in the shooting and the fifth, Arthur Kaufman, was convicted for his involvement in a cover-up. The officers claimed the family fired on them first.