Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury – It’s Katrina Time

Ideas and Issues Louisiana Recovery Rebuild New Orleans

katrina_D2_swat_teamNew Orleans Judge Terry Alacorn of Section L, Criminal District Court for the Parish of Orleans, told all of us in the jury pool that participating in citizen service as a juror was second only to military service in making the country work.  Maybe?  Definitely there were many in the pool with me who felt like they had been drafted and wished they were anywhere else!

There was a time in New Orleans where at the end of your service as a juror you received a certificate signed by a judge that was your “get out of jury duty” pass forever.  Then we were told that it was “one and done.”  When called again some years ago, I marched down with my certificate to be told the obvious:  there were less people in the city and more crime, so expect to be called whenever and wherever.

Everyone becomes an expert in how it should all be changed, but it’s something you soldier through.   The best way to go in my book is with a spirit of doing your time and getting to know your fellow citizens better.   My view of justice and a system that can mete it out and the approach my fellow citizens take to the same question, often scares and scars me for years.  I’ll try to spare you, but it won’t be easy.

Did you know that the lawyers like to ask jury panels what radio station they listen to in order to given them insight?  Bizarre.  One woman said a number and then later asked the judge to make sure a note was affixed by the lawyers that the station was “gospel.”  She clearly didn’t want her other jurors to know she was listening to devil music or something.  My seat mates were a UAW worker on the Saturn booster rockets at Michoud where we could both complain about bargaining with Jacobs Technology now, an adult bakery owner from the Quarter (the stenographer had to ask for two repeats on that one), a Honduran woman who now translates for courts on the West Bank who gave me advice on opening an office there, and a doctor I have known for decades.

The case we were impaneled to hear was a 4 year plus piece of mayhem from the day after Katrina.  I had to admit that I have trouble believing almost anything from the “fog of war” chaos and anarchy where the police would be the ONLY witnesses to multiple charges of attempted murder supposedly involving looting.  Oh, Lord!  I warned the lawyers for both sides and the judge, so rest assured I wasn’t picked, and neither were my other buddies except for the translator.  I told them I could be fair, but I think in all truth this was not the case for me.

I pulled the story from the Times-Picayune. It was on a PDF page from those days since there was no print edition the day after the storm and only an internet offering of sorts.  The lead  article on the page was about looting by residents AND police in stores all over the city.  At the bottom was this piece giving a thumbnail of the case.

Looter shoots N.O. officer in the head

by Matt Brown, New Orleans Times-Picayune West Bank Bureau  8/31/05

A New Orleans police officer was shot in the head Tuesday after confronting looters on the West Bank, officials said.

Details were scarce, but officials said the officer and another officer confronted several looters stealing merchandise from the Chevron station at the corner of Shirley and Gen. DeGaulle drives. One of the officers went inside the store, while

the other remained outside and confronted a man he saw looting the store. When he did, another looter came from behind and shot the officer in the head, a police officer told a reporter for The Times-Picayune.

The officer who was shot was rushed to West Jefferson Medical Center, where he underwent surgery.  Other officers told a reporter that reports from the hospital said the wounded officer was expected to survive. Jefferson Parish deputies arrested four people on the scene, and police said one of those arrested was wounded in the arm after exchanging gunfire with another officer.

I almost wrote more, but despite the fact that of 60 people interviewed, and only one or two had any knowledge of this incident from that time, I would hate to speculate and somehow imbalance the delicate scales of citizen justice.

It’s going to be a long month for this citizen!