Death penalty off the table in New Orleans policeman’s death
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Louisiana prosecutor said he won’t request the death penalty for a man accused of fatally shooting a New Orleans police officer during a struggle last year.
After Darren Bridges was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Officer Marcus McNeil last year, Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro had said prosecutors would go for the death penalty. But he announced a change in plans Wednesday.
“Officer McNeil’s family understands and endorsed pursuing this as a non-capital case, in order to reduce the many years of delay that would accompany a death penalty effort,” Cannizzaro said in a news release. “Our prosecutors will work diligently to bring a swifter measure of justice for their loved one.”
Defense attorney Kerry Cuccia did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Cannizzaro’s decision and whether it means Bridges will need a new attorney.
Cuccia directs a nonprofit created to represent indigent defendants facing the death penalty. The Capital Defense Project of Southeast Louisiana keeps a standing caseload of 25 defendants, according to a description on the Louisiana Public Defenders Board’s website.
McNeil, a three-year veteran, was shot after his patrol team left their cars to investigate something suspicious shortly after midnight on Oct. 13, 2017. Other officers returned fire, wounding Bridges, who eventually surrendered to a SWAT team,
Bridges was on parole at the time. He had been sentenced to 6 ½ years in 2012 for attempted possession of a firearm by a felon, and had been released from prison on “good time” in 2015.
He is scheduled for trial March 11 before Criminal District Judge Franz Zibilich on eight counts, including obstruction of justice in a second-degree murder case and aggravated assault with a firearm on a police officer.
“Our decision to take the death penalty off the table in this case in no way diminishes the heinous nature of this defendant’s crime,” Cannizzaro said. “The killing of a police officer will always be treated as one of the most serious offenses anyone in Louisiana can commit.”