Defense rests in trial of Katrina police officers

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 28, 2011 7:03 PM
Defense rests in trial of Katrina police officers

By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - The defense rested its case on Thursday in the trial of five New Orleans police officers charged in connection with the shooting deaths of two unarmed civilians during the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The jury heard from one final defense witness on Thursday, a nurse who cared for shooting victim Jose Holmes after he was severely injured in the 2005 police shooting at the Danziger Bridge.

Robyn Isemann said the 19-year-old Holmes had confided to her that the group of people he was with at the time of the incident were armed. That is in sharp contrast with government witnesses who testified that none of those shot had guns.

Under cross-examination by prosecutors, Isemann said she had interpreted Holmes' statement to her that "they had guns" to mean that civilians, not police officers, were armed.

James Brissette, 17, and Ronald Madison, 40, were killed in the shooting in eastern New Orleans, when much of the city was still underwater.

Officers Kenneth Bowen, Robert Faulcon, Robert Gisevius and Anthony Villavaso are charged in the shooting, and along with former detective Arthur Kaufman, are also accused of conducting a lengthy cover-up.

The shooting occurred when a dozen officers responded to a radio call that police had been fired on and that the shooters were headed toward the Danziger Bridge.

Government witnesses have testified that the officers opened fire as soon as they arrived at the bridge, though no civilians threatened them.

Earlier on Thursday, the defense read into the record the federal grand jury testimony of officers who said civilians on the bridge had guns and that it sounded as if they were shooting at the truck.

Closing arguments were expected to begin on Monday.

(Editing by Karen Brooks and Cynthia Johnston)