Sep 23, 201309:37 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
Danziger Bridge: A Tragedy Replayed
Beginning with the death of innocent people and the hurt inflicted on their families, what happened on the Danziger Bridge in the wake of Katrina was already tragic enough, but the saga became even more painful with the human drama of police officers caught in a bad situation.
In the days after the storm, approximately 200 police officers walked out on their jobs; most would subsequently be fired but at least they have not been sitting in a prison like those who answered the call to the Danziger Bridge.
We know that two citizens were shot and killed. We know that the incident does not seem to have been premediated murder but a horrible over reaction.
Up to this point a case could be made of an accident caused by policemen facing nearly unbearable pressure. Here the case could have ended, not happily but with some resolve. Yet there is one other factor that seems evident: There was apparently a cover-up. That is not a crime that is done by accident but by intent.
Last week a federal judge ordered a retrial of the Danziger case citing prosecutorial misconduct linked to those now infamous website postings by former prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s office. Though there is no evidence that the jury was swayed by those postings the judge was irked enough to call for a replay.
So, the whole discussion about Danziger will likely start anew. If the next trial ends with another conviction, someone will say that the verdict brings “closure” to the case though I have never understood how the emotional strain of a lost love one can ever be closed. Nor will there really be closure for the defendants if there is an acquittal or no trial. They will have the rest of their lives to think about what happened on the Danziger Bridge.
Those officers are victims, too; in their case they were failed by a city government and a police department that was rudderless as the city seemed to be falling apart. There was no one to take control; no one to provide an example; no one to say, “stop.”
Far from closure in the Danziger case, perhaps the door should always be left slightly open.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s new book, Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival (Pelican Publishing Company, 2013), is due to be released Oct. 31, 2013. It is now available for pre-order at Amazon.com.
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