A judge has ordered a new trial for five former New Orleans police officers convicted of civil rights violations related to deadly shootings on a bridge after Hurricane Katrina.
The US district judge ruled today that prosecutors’ “highly unusual, extensive and truly bizarre actions” warranted throwing out the convictions.
Lawyers for the former officers, convicted in 2011, say that a series of leaks to news organisations were part of a “secret public relations campaign” that deprived them of a fair trial.
Police gunned down James Brissette, 17, and Ronald Madison, 40, who were both unarmed, and wounded four others on 4 September 2005, on Danziger Bridge in New Orleans, less than a week after the storm devastated the city.
To cover it up, the officers planted a gun, fabricated witnesses and falsified reports.
The case stunned New Orleans, a city with a long history of police corruption.
Katrina struck on 29 August 2005 leading to the collapse of levees, and flooding an estimated 80 per cent of the city. New Orleans was plunged into chaos as residents who hadn’t evacuated were driven from their homes higher ground.
Officers who worked in the city at the time but were not charged in the bridge case had previously spoken of the lawlessness that followed the flood, and that they feared for their lives.