Mistrial Declared in Danziger Bridge Case


January 30, 2012

On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Kurt Engelhardt “regretfully” declared a mistrial in the case against former New Orleans Police Department Detective Gerard Dugue, who was accused of participating in the cover-up of the shootings of six unarmed civilians on the Danziger Bridge in the days following Hurricane Katrina. Two of the civilians were killed and four were seriously wounded in the shootings; to date five NOPD officers have pleaded guilty and five were convicted at trial last summer for their roles in the shootings and the ensuing cover-up.  Dugue was not present at the shootings; he wrote the final report justifying officers’ actions in the case.

The mistrial was declared after prosecutor Bobbi Bernstein mentioned the name of Raymond Robair, a handyman who was beaten to death by police in July 2005. (Read our reporting on the Robair case; last year, two NOPD officers were convicted in his death.) Dugue headed the internal NOPD investigation into Robair’s death, which justified the officers’ actions, but he was not charged with any wrongdoing in that case.

Claude Kelly, Dugue’s attorney, immediately objected when Robair’s name was mentioned, arguing it was prejudicial. The judge agreed, saying it was impossible to know whether jurors had overheard the remarks, adding, “That’s a chance that I’m not willing to take.”

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten says he intends to re-try the case against Dugue.

Earlier on Friday, Dugue took the stand in his own defense, denying he had attended what prosecutors referred to as a “secret meeting” during which the officers involved developed the cover-up. Last week, two former NOPD officers who pleaded guilty in the shootings placed Dugue at the meeting.

“Anybody who said I was there for a secret meeting is an absolute liar,” Dugue told the jury.

Defense attorneys also called former officer Michael Hunter to the stand. Hunter, who pleaded guilty in the Danziger case, said he did not recall Dugue being at the meeting, but he also said he couldn’t be sure that Dugue wasn’t there.

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

blog comments powered by Disqus

More Stories

Interview: Joe Biden on School Shootings
Then-Vice President Joe Biden discussed school shootings and gun control in a previously unpublished interview with FRONTLINE from November 2014.
May 26, 2022
Exclusive: What Joe Biden Told FRONTLINE About School Shootings and Gun Control in 2014
In remarks this week, President Biden cited his history trying to pass “common sense gun laws” — a subject he talked about in a 2014 interview with FRONTLINE, back when he was vice president and was confronted with Sandy Hook.
May 25, 2022
Two Years After George Floyd’s Murder, Minneapolis’ Efforts to Transform Safety Remain Unfinished
City leaders say they see promise in new programs that rely on civilians for some services, but recent developments have raised fresh questions about whether the MPD can be reformed.
May 25, 2022
FRONTLINE’s “A Thousand Cuts” Wins Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award
The 2021 FRONTLINE documentary examining renowned journalist Maria Ressa's fight for press freedom in the Philippines has been honored with an RFK Award in the International TV category. 
May 24, 2022