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Media Alerts - United States v. McRae et al. - 5th Circuit
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December 17, 2012
  United States v. McRae et al. - 5th Circuit
Headline: Fifth Circuit partly affirms and partly reverses convictions of New Orleans police officers charged with Katrina-related killing and cover-up

Area of Law: criminal; civil rights

Brief Summary: The federal government charged several New Orleans police officers in connection with the death of a man during the chaotic days following Hurricane Katrina's landfall. One officer was charged with unjustifiably killing the man, and other officers were charged with covering it up. Two of the officers were convicted by a jury on multiple counts, and they appealed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld some of their convictions but reversed others. A third defendant was initially convicted, but the trial judge then ordered a new trial. The government appealed that decision, and the Fifth Circuit affirmed. In sum, the Fifth Circuit's rulings return the case to the trial court for further proceedings involving all three of the defendants.

Extended Summary: In a case that garnered national media attention, federal prosecutors charged several New Orleans police officers with using excessive force in killing a man named Henry Glover and covering it up, all during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans. The jury convicted David Warren of killing Glover and convicted Gregory McRae of later burning the car containing Glover's body. The jury convicted Travis McCabe of obstructing the investigation, though the district court vacated his conviction and ordered a new trial in light of new evidence. As detailed below, the Fifth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part.

Regarding Warren, who was charged with Glover's death, the Fifth Circuit held that the district court erred in denying Warren's request that his trial be severed from the trial of the officers accused of covering up Glover's death. The court observed that Warren had not been accused of playing a role in covering up the death and that the evidence presented against the other defendants was highly inflammatory and could have prejudiced the jury against Warren. The court accordingly vacated Warren's conviction and returned the case to district court for a new trial.

Regarding McRae, who was convicted on several counts related to the burning of Glover's body, the Fifth Circuit affirmed on some counts but reversed on one count in which McRae had been convicted of depriving Glover's family of the right to seek judicial redress for Glover's death. As to that count, the court held that there was insufficient evidence that any family member had been prevented from pursuing any particular lawsuit. Because it was unclear how the reversal of the conviction on that count would affect McRae's sentence for the other counts, the Fifth Circuit remanded to the district court for resentencing.

Finally, regarding McCabe, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to order a new trial. The jury had initially convicted McCabe of obstructing the investigation by falsifying reports, but the district court ordered a new trial when McCabe presented new evidence casting doubt on the government's theory. In light of the Fifth Circuit's affirmance of that ruling, the case against McCabe also returns to the district court for further proceedings.

For the full opinion, please see:

Panel: Circuit Judges Jolly, Higginbotham, and Dennis

Argument: 7/11/2012

Date of Issued Opinion: 12/17/2012

Docket Number: Nos. 11-30345 & 11-30529

Decided: Affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part

Case Alert Author: Aaron-Andrew P. Bruhl

Counsel: Holly A. Thomas for the United States; William Reagan Wynn, Kearney Wynn, for Defendant-Appellant McRae; Julian R. Murray, Jr., Chehardy, Sherman, Ellis, Murray, Recile, Griffith, Stakelum & Hayes, L.L.P., for Defendant-Appellant Warren; James Michael Small for Defendant-Appellee McCabe.

Author of Opinion: Judge Jolly

    Posted By: Aaron Bruhl @ 12/17/2012 07:33 PM     5th Circuit  

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