Trial begins for final officer charged in Danziger case

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by Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on January 23, 2012 at 7:23 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 24 at 12:10 AM

NEW ORLEANS - The final officer to stand trial in connection with the coverup and deadly shootings on Danziger Bridge will get his day in court Monday.

Months after the convictions of five co-defendants, retired police Sgt. Gerard Dugue will face the same federal judge.

Dugue's trial is separate from that of the other officers because legal issues arose when he incriminated some of them during a 2009 interview with federal prosecutors.

His trial is scheduled to run two to three weeks. The previous trial lasted nearly six weeks.

"I would expect this trial would go significantly more quickly than the original Danziger trial," said Dane Ciolino, Law Professor at Loyola University. "Obviously we have only one defendant rather than multiple defendants."

Dugue is charged with the coverup. He began helping Sgt. Arthur Kaufman investigate the shootings six weeks after police killed unarmed civilians, James Brisette and Ronald Madison, on the Danziger Bridge. Kaufman has already been convicted.

Experts say that could present some extra challenges for the defense.

"The job that [Dugue's attorney is] going to have is to differentiate Mr. Dugue from the others," said Chick Foret, Eyewitness News legal analyst.

Dugue's attorney, Claude Kelly told Eyewitness News, "I believe the jury seated tomorrow will be able to see the vast differences between my client and the other defendants."

Some of those differences? Unlike those already convicted in the case, Dugue wasn't on the bridge the day of the shootings. And he was part of the cold case homicide squad rather than the 7th district police force.

Kelly said other contrasts will come out in court.

"We should expect a very different trial, although there will obviously be some overlap in the evidence from the first trial in this one, not as much perhaps as most people might think," said Ciolino.

And some experts say having a separate trial can be a big advantage.

"He's not going to be sitting with the people who now have been convicted of the shooting on the Danziger Bridge," said Foret.

Dugue's attorney said his client is confidently looking forward to his day in court and is emphatic he did nothing wrong. But time will tell as New Orleans gets another step closer to closing this dark chapter in its history.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday morning before Judge Kurt Englehardt. 

 

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