Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- A powerful flood of emotions was unleashed in federal court Wednesday as the hit man who fatally shot a woman on the orders of a New Orleans police officer was re-sentenced to life in prison, nearly a year after his death sentence was overturned.
Paul “Cool” Hardy, 44, was removed from federal death row in January after he was declared mentally retarded by U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan. Hardy was convicted of being the triggerman in the 1994 execution-style killing of Kim Groves in front of her Ninth Ward home.
In chilling telephone conversations recorded by the FBI, Hardy could be heard taking detailed instructions from rogue cop Len Davis, who targeted Groves after she filed a brutality complaint as a witness against Davis and his police partner. Davis remains on death row after a jury convicted him and Hardy in a 1996 trial.
Despite the passage of 17 years since the slaying, two of Groves’ three children – teenagers when they witnessed their mother’s violent death – were overcome with raw emotion as they offered statements Wednesday morning.
Addressing Hardy without looking at him, Jasmine Groves, 29, said, “You shattered my whole world by taking away the best thing I ever had.”
Pausing several times after breaking down in tears, Groves continued, “At the same time, you gave me the worst birthday present one can think of. Did you even know I turned 13 the next day? I remember like yesterday the hole you left in my mother’s head.”
Hardy’s death sentence was overturned in the wake of a 2002 Supreme Court decision, Atkins vs. Virgnia, that struck down capital punishment for the mentally retarded. Hardy was found retarded despite objections by the U.S. Attorney’s office.
In a blistering statement at Wednesday’s hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike McMahon, one of the attorneys who prosecuted Hardy, said, “Any attempt to humanize this cold-blooded killer disgusts me.”
“This is the Paul Hardy who laughed with Len Davis about putting a 9mm bullet in the head of Kim Groves.”
Hardy offered no statement at the hearing, although he shot a couple of smiling glances at family members, including his two now-grown daughters. One of the daughters broke down and wailed after Hardy was led away in handcuffs and leg shackles.
Hardy’s team of defense attorneys indicated that they will continue to appeal their client’s life sentence.
In addition to the life sentence, Judge Berrigan issued an order – largely symbolic under the circumstances – for Hardy to pay restitution of $3,593, the cost of Kim Groves’ funeral.