Case Against Doctor, Nurses in Katrina Hospital Deaths Progresses

New Orleans' coroner said Thursday he has the material he needs to present findings to a grand jury that will consider indictments against a doctor and two nurses accused of killing patients in the chaotic days following Hurricane Katrina.

The findings will include autopsy and toxicology reports and an official classification of the four deaths involved. Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan has said he would wait to review them before asking a grand jury to look into the deaths.

"All the material is in, we're evaluating it right now," said the coroner, Dr. Frank Minyard. He declined to comment on the findings or say when he would present them.

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Dr. Anna Pou, a cancer and ear, nose and throat specialist, and nurses Cheri Landry and Lori Budo were arrested July 17.

Attorneys for the three, all released without bond, say they are innocent.

The women were working at Memorial Medical Center, which was swamped with 10 feet of water and isolated after Katrina hit Aug. 29. The 317-bed hospital had no electricity, no running water and an inside temperature topping 100 degrees as the staff tried to tend to patients who waited four days to be evacuated.

Prosecutors allege that the three defendants gave lethal doses of sedatives to four desperately ill patients. They have been booked with second-degree murder; the grand jury will decide formal charges.

Pou, Landry and Budo were the first medical professionals charged in a monthslong criminal investigation into whether any of New Orleans' sick and elderly were abandoned or euthanized in the days after the storm.

Thirty-four people died at Memorial during the crisis. Kris Wartelle, spokeswoman for state Attorney General Charles Foti, said Thursday that the investigation continues into some of those deaths.