Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- It was an unannounced visit to the Danziger Bridge for the judge, jury and attorneys in the police shooting trial that bears its name.
According to witness accounts, in the chaos after Hurricane Katrina, police rushed to the bridge over the Industrial Canal in New Orleans East, responding to a radio call of shots fired, two officers down.
Five former or current NOPD officers are now on trial in federal court for the shooting of six civilians on the Danziger that day and alleged cover-up.
Tuesday morning, jurors took a break during the fifth week of testimony to tour the bridge and to see for themselves sites that have been discussed during the trial.
"This type of visitation from a jury is more often seen in state court," said former prosecutor and legal analyst Chick Foret. "Certainly, I think today this is a good move by Judge Engelhardt. I think the jury is going to be much more well informed and will certainly help in their decision making process."
The close to 90-minute field trip started on the high-rise bridge on I-10. That's where a network photographer shot a grainy video of the September 4, 2005 shooting played in court several times.
From there, the group got out of buses and vans on the east end of the bridge.
Louisiana State Police shut down the bridge, and with notebooks in hand, members of the jury looked at the grassy area under the bridge where defense attorneys claim civilians shot first and officers returned fire.
They also looked at bullet strike marks on the guard rails and concrete barriers. The marks have been the focus of much testimony during the trial by both prosecution and defense witnesses.
The jury then walked across the mile-long bridge, stopping to see the spots where 17-year-old James Brissette and 40-year-old Ronald Madison lost their lives.
"I'm glad I was here this morning because I didn't realize the grassy area was as low as it is in relation to where the Bartholomew family and James Brissette were lying on the walkway," said Foret.
The jury's field trip comes as a result of a joint motion from the prosecution and defense.
Testimony in the Danziger trial picks up first thing Wednesday morning with former officer, turned cooperating witness Robert Barrios on the witness stand.