NEW ORLEANS -- Five former New Orleans police officers convicted of killing unarmed civilians in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are getting a new trial.
A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the Danziger Bridge shooting case needs to be re-tried because of "grotesque prosecutorial misconduct."
"They took the twinkle out my eye, the song out of my heart, and blew out my candle. But it's gonna be all right because justice has been served."
Those heartfelt words came from the lips of Sherrell Johnson. The grieving mother was standing outside New Orleans' federal courthouse back in August 2011. It was a moment of relief for the Danziger Bridge shooting victims and their families moments. In Johnson's case, the officers accused of killing her son James Brissette were finally convicted.
Now that sense of justice is gone.
"They think the first time it didn't take. So we need to be brought back. I think this is horrible. This is horrible. Unacceptable. Can't believe this," said Johnson.
Her 17-year-old son, James, was one of six victims shot by NOPD officers on the Danziger Bridge after Katrina. Brissette and 40-year-old Ronald Madison would die from their injuries.
A long federal trial, along with testimony from injured victims, led to the sentencing of all five officers in April 2012.
However, on Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Kurt Engelhardt released a legal opinion saying the case needs to be re-tried because of prosecutorial misconduct. The opinion cites information being leaked to the media during the trial & federal prosecutors blogging about the case on media websites as part of the "brazen abuse of authority" happening in former U.S. attorney Jim Letten's office.
"What are you basing this on? Something that happened on the Internet? That has nothing to do with what they did to the innocent victims," said Johnson.
She said what adds insult to injury is the ruling comes on the heels of the Sept. 4 anniversary of the Danziger Bridge shooting.
"We salute him and the court for doing what courts are supposed to do, and that is guard everybody's rights," said Burkhart.
As prosecutors and defense attorneys gear-up for round two, so are the the Danziger Bridge shooting victims and their families. They'll likely face yet another emotionally charged roller coaster ride.
"Them getting a new trial, that's not going to bring them back. Our loved ones are just gone," said Johnson.
The U.S. Attorney's Office issued this statement about Judge Engelhardt's decision:
"We are disappointed in the court's ruling. We are reviewing the decision and considering our options."
Eyewitness News also reached out to Jim Letten on Tuesday who is now a dean at Tulane Law School. He was not made available for comment.