By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN / Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Two former police officers charged in a deadly shooting following Hurricane Katrina can get fair retrials in New Orleans, a federal judge ruled Friday, refusing to move the proceedings elsewhere.
Attorneys for the former New Orleans officers, David Warren and Travis McCabe, argued that media coverage of their clients' first trial has tainted the pool of prospective jurors in the 13-parish Eastern District of Louisiana.
U.S. District Judge Lance Africk rejected their requests for a change of venue, saying any prejudice against the defendants can be weeded out by carefully questioning members of the jury pools.
"Despite the extensive media coverage surrounding defendants' first trial ... no one has suggested that the jury's verdicts were indicative of media prejudice," Africk wrote.
Africk, however, said the defense lawyers can renew their transfer requests after receiving questionnaires from prospective jurors.
Warren was convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting 31-year-old Henry Glover outside a strip mall less than a week after the 2005 storm. A different officer was convicted of burning Glover's body in a car.
A three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Warren's 2010 convictions in December, ruling he should have been tried separately from officers accused of engaging in a cover-up.
McCabe was convicted of writing a false report on Glover's shooting, but Africk ruled he deserves a second trial because an earlier copy of the report he is accused of changing was found after his conviction.
Warren's attorneys argued it is impossible for their client to get a fair trial in New Orleans.
"A coordinated campaign by the government has used the media to ensure that Mr. Warren is inextricably linked to the actions of other officers who were charged with burning the body of Henry Glover and the subsequent alleged cover-up," they wrote.
Africk said he reviewed media coverage of the case and concluded that the "majority of the content" is factual and doesn't demonize the defendants. He also reviewed a host of reader comments on the case on nola.com, The Times-Picayune newspaper's companion website.
"The many comments reviewed by the Court do not collectively indicate that there is a well-grounded fear of encountering a persuasively prejudicial jury pool," Africk wrote.
Warren's retrial is scheduled to start Aug. 26. McCabe's is set for Sept. 23.