New Orleans D.A. Won't Seek Death Penalty for Cops Charged in Katrina Murders

Four New Orleans police officers charged with murder in shootings that took place in the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina will not face the death penalty if they are convicted, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Sgts. Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius Jr., Officer Anthony Villavaso II, and former officer Robert Faulcon Jr. face first-degree murder charges and attempted murder charges in the Sept. 4, 2005, shootings on the Danziger Bridge that killed two men and wounded four other people.

District Attorney Eddie Jordan's office still plans to try the four for first-degree murder, Assistant District Attorney Dustin Davis said. But, instead of a death sentence, prosecutors will ask for the alternative sentence of life in prison if they are convicted, Davis said.

In the chaos that followed Katrina, Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally retarded man, and James Brissette, 19, were shot and killed by police on the bridge.

"We feel they deserve the death penalty," Lorna Humphries, sister of Madison, said Wednesday. "But we'll settle at seeing them spend the rest of their lives in jail. They executed my brother. They shot him for no reason."

The last time a New Orleans jury handed down a death penalty was in September 1997.

Two other officers — Robert Barrios and Mike Hunter Jr. — were charged with attempted first-degree murder, and Officer Ignatius Hills was charged with attempted second-degree murder.

The six current officers returned to low-profile jobs on Monday. They are not allowed to wear uniforms, make arrests or carry weapons and they're closely monitored, police said. They also continue to wear ankle bracelets that track their whereabouts.

Madison's brother, Romell Madison, on Wednesday called for Mayor Ray Nagin to overturn the police superintendent's decision to allow the officers to return to work.

"These men have been indicted with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder charges by a grand jury of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court system," said Madison. "For them to be allowed to resume their jobs is a slap in the face of justice."

Another Madison brother, Lance Madison, was also on the bridge. He was cleared of attempted murder charges after spending over a month in jail.

"My brother Lance has still not been able to return to work," said Humphries, who owns an engineering consulting firm. "It's been hard on him. First he watched his brother gunned down then he was arrested. He's been out of work 17 months now, but the police are back. Is that fair?"