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Posted Dec 18, 2012, 10:49 am
A federal appellate court has overturned the convictions of two former New Orleans police officers imprisoned in connection with the killing of Henry Glover after Hurricane Katrina, dealing a blow to federal prosecutors' efforts to hold police accountable for misconduct before and after the storm.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals voided the conviction of ex-cop David Warren, who was found guilty of fatally shooting Glover, stating that Warren's trial should have been severed from that of his co-defendants. A jury convicted Warren in late 2010, along with Greg McRae and Travis McCabe, who also were serving on the New Orleans police force at the time of Glover's killing.
The appellate panel tossed out a key charge against McRae, who admitted to burning Glover's body, finding there was "insufficient evidence to convict McRae of denying Glover's descendants and survivors the right of access to court." McCabe's conviction for participating in covering up the crimes had already been overturned by Judge Lance Africk, who presided over the trial.
The court's decision appears to set the stage for another round of trials regarding Glover's shooting and the police force's subsequent handling of his death.
ProPublica and The Nation magazine first shed light on the grisly circumstances surrounding Glover's death in 2008. After the storm, an emergency response crew discovered Glover's incinerated remains in a burned car on the banks of the Mississippi river.
It eventually emerged that Warren, guarding a police substation, had shot Glover with a rifle as Glover tried to pick up stolen goods taken from a shopping mall. McRae later set Glover's body ablaze. Police then thwarted attempts by Glover's family to uncover the truth about his death.
Courts continue to grapple with multiple cases involving police violence in the wake of Katrina.
Last month, a federal judge instructed the Justice Department to investigate media leaks surrounding the prosecution of 11 officers charged with crimes tied to shootings near the Danziger Bridge. This incident, which also took place days after Katrina, left four people wounded and two dead.
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Today's appellate court decision also comes amid turmoil in the local U.S. Attorney's office, which has been shaken by revelations that prosecutors anonymously posted comments about ongoing cases on NOLA.com, the website of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Earlier this month the online scandal prompted the resignation of longtime U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, who had worked as the region's top federal prosecutor for more than a decade.