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

Once Viewed as a 'Paper Tiger,' POST Board Pursues New Reforms to Discipline Misbehaving Police
The Minnesota board's proposed ban on police officers belonging to white supremacist groups, criminal gangs or any extremist group is "a no-brainer," said POST chair and Mendota Heights Police Chief Kelly McCarthy, who has championed the reforms.
May 22, 2022
Ex-MPD Officer Thomas Lane Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter Charge for Role in George Floyd’s Murder
He was one of three officers convicted in federal court and expected to face trial next month on state charges.
May 18, 2022
9 Documentaries That Provide Context on the Buffalo Shooting
As America grapples with the deadly massacre, FRONTLINE's past reporting sheds light on the current moment and the circumstances that led to it, from guns to America's history of racist killings.
May 17, 2022
War Crimes Watch: Targeting Ukraine Schools, Russia Bombs the Future
The destruction of schools is about more than toppling buildings and maiming bodies, experts told our reporting partner The Associated Press. It hinders a nation’s ability to rebound after the fighting stops, injuring entire generations.
May 17, 2022