NEW ORLEANS - A dark chapter from Hurricane Katrina was revisited in federal court Monday when jury selection began in the retrial of a former New Orleans police officer who was previously convicted of fatally shooting an unarmed man in the storm’s chaotic aftermath.
David Warren, 50, is on trial for violating the civil rights of 31-year-old Henry Glover. Warren admitted shooting Glover from the second-floor balcony of an Algiers strip mall from more than 50 feet away, but maintained he fired because he considered Glover to be a threat.
During the first trial in 2010, Warren faced a 12-person jury alongside four other officers who were accused of failing to render aid to the dying Glover, burning his body to cover up the shooting, then crafting a bogus police report to hide their misdeeds.
But the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal threw out Warren’s conviction and 25-year prison sentence, ruling that he should not have been tried along with the other four officers. At the time Glover was shot, Warren was about two miles away from his co-defendants, who were stationed at a makeshift compound at nearby Habans Elementary School.
With the severance, a new jury will not see many of the gruesome images from the first trial, evidence that included the torched car containing Glover’s body and his charred skull found in the back seat.
Legal analyst Dane Ciolino said Warren’s retrial will focus exclusively on whether the shooting was justified, without any taint from the cover-up that followed. Warren is being tried on two counts, violating Glover’s civil rights and using a gun in the commission of a felony.
"No doubt that the jury that first convicted Mr. Warren did so under the black cloud of the cover-up that they learned about in great detail. That cloud is gone and it will not be part of this trial," Ciolino said. “So the jurors will evaluate Mr. Warren's conduct based solely on what he was thinking, what the circumstances were when he pulled the trigger of his rifle."
Glover's family said going back to that fateful day will be painful.
"We should not even have to go back through this.” said Rebecca Glover, the victim’s aunt. “This was done already. We had put it behind us and tried to move on. Now we're not moving on anymore. We haven't got justice."
About 50 jurors were questioned Monday, with another 50 slated to be questioned Tuesday before the final jury is selected. The trial is expected to last about two weeks, with prosecutors and defense attorneys listing potential witnesses ranging from Glover’s family members to police officers who were involved in the 2010 trial.
Among the ex-cops who could testify are two of Warren’s co-defendants from the original trial. Dwayne Scheuermann was acquitted of taking part in the incineration of Glover’s body, while Robert Italiano was acquitted of playing a role in covering up the crime by falsifying a police report.
Greg McCrae, the officer who used roadside flares to torch Glover’s body, is another potential witness. McCrae, convicted at the first trial, is serving 17 years in prison for violating Glover’s civil rights.
The fifth officer involved in the original case, Travis McCabe, is awaiting retrial after the appellate court overturned his conviction for allegedly writing a false report about Glover’s death and desecration.