Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- The Danziger police shooting case is one step closer to going to the jury.
Jurors heard nearly eight hours of closing arguments. Wednesday morning, Judge Kurt Engelhardt is expected to read the jury its instructions then allow them to begin deliberations.
On Tuesday the jury heard two versions of the facts in the Danziger case.
During closing arguments prosecutor Theodore Carter told the jury police shot six civilians on the Danziger Bridge, killed two of them and lied to cover up their actions.
“We had fabricated witnesses, false statements, fabricated statements from the defendants themselves,” Carter said. “We even have a planted gun. They had to lie.”
Carter also told the jury, “They thought they were criminals. They thought they needed to be taught a lesson. They thought because of Katrina, nobody was watching. They thought they could do what they wanted to do. They thought they could gun down two good families.”
“He pointed out the pieces of the testimony and the physical evidence that he thought was significant for the government’s case,” said Eyewitness News legal analyst and former prosecutor Donald “Chick” Foret.
To come back with a guilty verdict on the shooting-related counts in the indictment, the jury must find that officers:
- Acted under the color of law
- Acted willfully
- Violated a constitutional right
- And that the violation involved great bodily harm or the use of a dangerous weapon.
Defense attorney Paul Fleming argued that officers believed they were being shot at when they fired their weapons on the bridge. He suggested the backdrop of post-Katrina New Orleans help set the stage for what he called tragic and unfortunate decisions that day.
Fleming said, “This was a time like no other. It was a time of disorder, chaos and lawlessness.”
Defense attorney Tim Meche argued, “It’s not whether or not the civilians on the bridge had guns. It’s whether or not the officers on the scene reasonably believed they had guns.”
As far as a cover-up, defense attorney Steve London argued, “You don’t leave evidence sitting around to be found 54 days later by investigators. That’s not what you’re going to do if you want to cover up the crime. You’re going to pick up the casings and throw them into the Industrial Canal. You’re not going to keep the officers’ guns.”
“This was a quote that was used by all of the defense counsel -- you can’t look at it with 20-20 hindsight,” Foret said. “You’ve got to go back and look at the day of the Danziger Bridge incident and you’ve got to look at the totality of the circumstances.”
Lead prosecutor Bobbi Bernstein said this case is not a "who done it" and the only people firing guns on the bridge that day were police officers.