Defense grills prosecution's final witness in Danziger trial

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wwltv.com

Posted on July 19, 2011 at 5:24 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 19 at 6:01 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS – The government’s last witness in the Danziger police shooting case, FBI Agent William Bezak, spent his second day on the witness stand Tuesday fielding questions from defense attorneys.

Defendant Robert Gisevius’s attorney Eric Hessler pressed Bezak on the use of force policy for the NOPD.

The defense claims officers were responding to a call of shots fired and two officers down at the time of the Danziger shooting. Defendants are on trial for the shooting of six civilians, including two who died.

Tuesday morning Bezak told the jury, “Officers will be judged on the constitution and federal law, not whether they violated NOPD policy.”

But Bezak admitted, “You can absolutely shoot an unarmed person under certain circumstances if you believe your life or the life of another is in danger.”

Prosecutors argue people shot on the bridge were not armed and posed no threat to the officers.

“The defendants I’m sure in the presentation of their evidence are going to say that it was the proper use of deadly force, because they thought they were defending other officers and they were defending themselves,” said Donald “Chick” Foret, former prosecutor abd Eyewitness News legal analyst.

According to the indictment, Defendant Archie Kaufman is accused of fabricating witnesses to the shooting, James Youngman and Lekesha Smith.

Kaufman’s attorney, Stephen London, asked Bezak, “Is it your belief that Lekesha Smith doesn’t exist – a complete figment of Sgt. Kaufman and Officer Lehrmann’s imagination.”

Bezak answered, “Yes, of course there are Lekesha Smiths out there, but no Lekesha Smith who witnessed the shooting.”

London then pressed Bezak about a Lekesha Smith who lives in a Dallas suburb who lived just blocks from the Danziger Bridge before Hurricane Katrina.

Bezak said that woman claimed she didn’t witness anything in New Orleans.

“I don’t know if he planted seeds of reasonable doubt, but certainly he planted seeds of confusion,” Foret said.

There will be no court Wednesday in the Danziger case. The trial will continue Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m.

 

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