The trial for five New Orleans police officers charged with killing a black man in the days after Hurricane Katrina, and then later covering up his death, has kicked off this week. On Monday attorneys gathered in New Orleans to begin jury selection, which is expected to continue today. Opening arguments are set for this afternoon.
David Warren, then a rookie on the New Orleans police force, was charged with shooting Henry Glover from a second-floor balcony of a strip mall in Algiers. Greg McRae and Dwayne Scheuermann have been charged with beating up the men who brought Glover to a nearby police station for help. McRae and Scheuermann allegedly drove off in the car belonging to the Good Samaritan who was trying to aid Glover, before setting fire to Glover’s body and the car he was in and pushing it into a levy, where it was found months later. Robert Italiano Jr and Travis McCabe have been charged with falsifying police reports to hide the killing and subsequent cover up.
All five police officers have pleaded not guilty.
The charges were brought by the Department of Justice after a two-year investigation. Warren’s attorney Michael Ellis told reporters that the defense plans to argue that the shooting was warranted, given the chaos of Katrina. “Everybody was afraid of everything that transpired,” Ellis said outside the courthouse, local station WDSU reported. “Hopefully we’ll get a jury that’s going to listen to all the evidence presented and hear our client’s position, as we think it was a justifiable shooting on his behalf.”
Judge Lance Africk may also allow the defense to introduce evidence that police officers may have been given the green light to shoot people suspected of looting during those frenzied days following Katrina.
The Times-Picayune reports that the trial is expected to last about four weeks. The Justice Department has at least eight ongoing investigations into NOPD misconduct, and 18 NOPD officers, most who were involved in post-Katrina shootings, have been charged with misconduct. Glover’s case is the first to go to trial.