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Former Officer Gets Death Sentence in Woman’s Murder

April 27, 1996

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ A former New Orleans policeman who ordered a woman murdered the day after she filed a brutality complaint against him should be executed, a jury ruled Friday.

In reaching the verdict, jurors agreed that Len Davis, 31, used his position as a policeman to arrange the killing.

Kim Groves, a 32-year-old mother of three, was gunned down in front of her house in October 1994, the day after filing a complaint accusing Davis of pistol-whipping a teen-ager.

``That was not an isolated example of murderous intent by Davis,″ U.S. Justice Department attorney Mike McMahon said. ``It was part of an ongoing pattern of violence.″

It took the jury just 30 minutes to decide Davis’s fate.

Davis is the first person ever sentenced to death in a civil rights case, according to Dave Bruck of the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project.

It was the second death sentence for a former New Orleans police officer in less than 12 months. In August, a jury said Antoinette Frank should be executed for killing her partner and two other people during a restaurant robbery.

Davis and triggerman Paul Hardy, 28, were convicted Wednesday of conspiracy, civil rights violations and the premeditated killing of a federal witness.

U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan is bound to impose the jury’s verdict when Davis is formally sentenced later. The jury will begin another hearing Monday for Hardy.

Groves was killed the day reform-minded Richard Pennington took over the New Orleans police department, and her death became a symbol of corruption in the 1,500-strong force.

Davis was already being targeted in a federal sting operation in which officers were eventually charged with protecting a stash of illegal drugs in a New Orleans warehouse. Davis and eight other officers face trial later this year in that case.

Defense lawyer Dwight Doske told jurors that Davis was a good cop until 1993, when he was corrupted by the combination of low pay and big bucks waved at him by federal investigators in the million-dollar sting.

In videotapes from the FBI investigation, jurors saw Davis telling an undercover agent how to distribute drugs in the city.

Another tape caught Davis telling Hardy to call his beeper and use police code 34 _ assault _ whenever Hardy and his crew went out shooting.

A third defendant in the Groves trial, Damon Causey, was convicted of conspiracy and civil rights violations for being at the murder scene and hiding the 9mm pistol that killed Groves. Causey, 25, could be sentenced to life in prison.

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