Death penalty dropped in shooting

Times Staff Writer

The Orleans Parish district attorney’s office announced Thursday it would not seek the death penalty for four police officers charged with murder in a shooting on a city bridge after Hurricane Katrina.

Dist. Atty. Eddie Jordan still plans to try Sgts. Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius, Officer Anthony Villavaso and former Officer Robert Faulcon on first-degree murder charges, and they could spend the rest of their lives in prison if found guilty in the shooting deaths of two men.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Feb. 3, 2007 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday February 03, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 43 words Type of Material: Correction
New Orleans bridge shooting: In an article in Friday’s Section A about prosecutors’ decision not to seek the death penalty for three current and one former policemen charged with murder, the last name of Lorna Humphrey, a victim’s sister, was misspelled as Humphries.

Jordan’s office would not elaborate on the decision that was announced by Assistant Dist. Atty. Dustin Davis.


“It’s a relief,” said Franz Zibilich, Faulcon’s attorney. “We never thought that this was a legitimate death-penalty-type case.”

Last year, a Louisiana state grand jury indicted the four men on charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder. They are accused of killing Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally disabled man, who was shot several times in the back; and James Brissette, 19.

Madison’s brother Lance was among four people seriously wounded.

Three other officers, Robert Barrios, Michael Hunter and Ignatius Hills, were charged with attempted murder.

Lorna Humphries, Madison’s sister, told reporters that her family supported the district attorney’s decision not to seek the death penalty.

Prominent New Orleans defense attorney Robert Jenkins and other legal experts have said that Jordan should have prosecuted the case as negligent homicide, which does not require the prosecution to prove criminal intent to commit homicide.

“They didn’t go out looking to kill someone,” Jenkins said. “They went out for [reasons of] public safety.”


The shooting survivors say otherwise. They say they were crossing Danziger Bridge in search of food when a group of men they thought were hoodlums opened fire on them, causing them to run for their lives.

On Monday, the six officers still employed by the New Orleans Police Department returned to low-profile jobs. They may not carry weapons, make arrests or wear uniforms. They must also wear ankle monitors.

The Madison family has appealed to the mayor to reverse a decision that allows the defendants to keep working. “It’s a slap in the face to our community and to our family,” Humphries said.