Henry Glover Hearing – February 5, 2021, 7 pm Eastern

Transcript: Hearing on the Case of Henry Glover

SPEAKERS

  • Rapporteur Prof. Priscilla Ocen
  • Commissioner Mr. Arturo Fournier Facio
  • Mr Courtney Wilson, attorney for the Glover family

Priscilla Ocen  00:05

Good afternoon, and good evening, everyone. Welcome to the hearings of the International Commission of Inquiry on systemic racist police violence against people of African descent in the United States. These hearings are a process by which witnesses can present accounts of the unjustified killings and meanings of Black individuals, by police officers in the United States before an international panel of human rights experts. We will now begin the hearing in the case of Henry Glover. My name is Priscilla Ocen. I’m a professor of law at Loyola law school in Los Angeles and I am the rapporteur for today’s hearing. Presiding over the hearing is Commissioner Arturo Fournier of Costa Rica. The witnesses for today’s hearing is Mr. Courtney Wilson. This hearing will be about 50 minutes. Witnesses will testify, followed by questions from commissioners. I will call time at about 30 minutes and 45 minutes. So apologies if I have to interrupt you in order to do so. Commissioner Fournier. I want to present to you our first witness, Attorney Courtney Wilson. Mr. Wilson, can you just confirm your name for the record?

Courtney Wilson  01:27

Sure. Courtney Wilson.

Priscilla Ocen  01:29

Thank you, Mr. Wilson. And you promise that your testimony before the commission today will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief.

Courtney Wilson  01:39

Yes.

Priscilla Ocen  01:40

Thank you, Mr. Wilson, you can proceed with your comments.

Courtney Wilson  01:44

Well, first thing I’d like to do is thank the commission for inviting me. Hopefully I can make a contribution to tonight’s proceedings. I thought that since my background in neuroscience is interesting, I might just briefly tell you a little bit about me. I’m 76 years old. I’ve had almost an exclusively civil rights practice for 50 years. My family’s been in and around New Orleans in the river region for 225 years. If you’ve ever been to the French Quarter, or the downtown business district in New Orleans, you’ve seen buildings that my family has put up. We’ve been here as good sheep and black sheep. If you’ve been up river, to Destrehan’s plantation, where slaves captured after the failed 1811 slave revolt were tried, convicted, convicted, sentenced to death and decapitation. You’ve been to family property because we married into the family, that married and married into the family that married into the family that owned Destrehan’s plantation. If you’ve read the ceramic replica of the death warrants for that slave trial, behind the plantation you’ve read in a manner of speaking family literature, because again, we married in to the family that married and married into the family that signed a death warrant. If you ever get a chance to come to New Orleans, I would suggest you see the Destrehan plantation and certainly go to the Whitney plantation. It is a quite a place to see. Let me tell you a little bit about Henry Glover. He was a very nice looking young Black male, 31 years old with five children.

When Hurricane Katrina came in August of 2005, he elected to in the local parlance to ride it out, to stay home for a hurricane. It was a bad choice because when 60 foot waves in the Gulf of Mexico arrived in New Orleans. The surge ahead of them broke the jello we call levees in 55 places, 80% of New Orleans was underwater, sometimes as much as 12 feet. For weeks in New Orleans, there were no lights and nobody moved. There wasn’t anybody here. On September 2, three days after the hurricane, Henry Glover and his friend Callaway left friends and family to look for food and supplies. Or according to other accounts, they went to a strip mall to retrieve suitcases of loot. Looting was extremely widespread. By this time, the remaining New Orleans police officers, some 200 had turned in their badges, had been deployed around the dry areas of the city. One of these officers was David Warren, a rookie police officer from Pennsylvania who was guarding a police station in a strip mall from a second story balcony. Warren was armed with his personal weapon, a hunting rifle with a scope. He testified that he saw two men, Callaway and Glover, looting and fired a warning shot that somehow or other hit Mr. Glover in the chest and killed him.

There was testimony that, from that Glover had turned away from Warren and posed no threat. That Warren shot him in the back. When, when Glover was shot, a neighbor gathered him up and drove him to another police station for medical attention. Unfortunately, Mr. Glover died in the vehicle. Another officer took the car with Glover’s body and drove it to a nearby Mississippi River levee and burned it, making Glover’s body inaccessible for rent for forensic analysis of the entry wound. His body was found a week later. Warren, of course complained he shot Glover in in the chest in the front, when he advanced on him. The only witness was Warren’s police partner, a woman who was a complete basket case as far as a witness when she was totally unable to testify. Warren was charged with manslaughter, convicted and sentenced by a judge. To show you what a small world it is, his son played football with mine. Warren appealed, the conviction was reversed and he was acquitted. He had two defense attorneys, again, the small world aspect of the role and, one had been a mentor forty years before and the other was my law school roommate. I was one of a subset of three attorneys who represented Mr. Glover’s teenage son, the three of us alternated shadowing the criminal trial. The civil matter, never went to trial, and was settled, 11 years later, in December of 2016.

Afterwards, the New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu who was responsible for removing some of the Confederate statues here in New Orleans, privately apologized to Mr. Glover’s son. Mr. Glover’s son was deeply affected by the death and the burning and abandonment of his father’s body, as you might imagine, however, he had his sights set on college and seem capable of successfully using the settlement money for that purpose. I don’t know what became of him. I wanted to address for a minute the statement here that about remedies. I agree that national remedies are non essential, and they’re probably going to remain so. I do not agree that there was a national policy of the federal government that exacerbates the killings. Instead, it’s a white supremacy culture that kills them. This has to be the culprit. But over and over we see a Black male killed by one local police department after another, each independent of the other and under no national control. I think the problem begins with a Minneapolis police chief said, after the George killing that a lot of the remedies starts with hiring. He asked how do I know I’m not hiring another Derek Chauvin, the officer who had killed George Floyd. How do you screen these folks out? David Warren had no business ever been a police officer, particularly in New Orleans whose offices do have at least the annual non violent tradition called Mardi Gras, when the city puts its best folk, his best foot forward.

I do not know what provokes white police officers to kill Black males. Whatever the basis for the culture, studies show that it sometimes even spreads like a cancer to Black officers. Maybe it’s fear. Studies show that humans are most afraid of snakes and react more quickly to snake pictures than to any others. It’s occurred to me, why not use this technique to weed out the applicants who react more fearfully to images of the other: the whites who react more quickly to Black pictures then to pictures of their own kind more scientifically. One hiring consultant Alan Friedman, PhD, in Chicago, claims his hiring system has never hired a bad officer. Once in the field, however, a police officer has several layers of protection built into both the federal and state judicial systems. One is the nationally recognized split second defense when the officer says that he was surprised and had to react, draw his weapon and shoot the man. So often, the police officer seems to have created the very circumstances that he is invoking as a defense to having shot someone. However, to crack that defense requires expert testimony, that testimony can run several thousands of dollars. Very few of the do good lawyers, solo practitioners can afford that kind of expenditure. And rarely, if ever, can the plaintiff victim family afford them.

A second problem is that in the federal system, police excessive force cases are referred to the magistrates. The magistrates serve for a period, a term of eight years, they have to be picked by the senior District Court judges in whatever Federal District they serve. I have a feeling, I can’t tell you this, that their appointment is scrutinized by the local sheriffs, and that they have a veto over that appointment and a possible veto over reappointment in eight years. The original point behind the civil rights excessive force statutes was to take these cases out of the local jurisdiction, which were presumably more susceptible to local sheriff and law enforcement pressure and insulate them in the federal system. However, because these cases are referred to the magistrates, who do not have lifetime appointments, I think we have wound up some someplace in right back where we were with the local courts trying these cases. A third thing I would note is that in Louisiana, you cannot try police officers before a jury. If you try these cases in state court, they are trying to the judge, again, I think that presents us with an uphill battle. That’s the sum of my my statement that describes the case. And that describes a few of the problems I’ve encountered in handling these cases.

Priscilla Ocen  12:22

Thank you very much, Mr. Wilson, for your description of the case and for your assessment of some of the systemic problems that repeatedly lead to one, the shooting and killing of Black people, men, women, children, trans and cisgender people across the country. And I appreciate your description of some of the potential solutions. At this point, I will turn it over to our Commissioner finding a way to ask any questions that he might have, our witness, Mr. Wilson. Commissioner Fournier?

Arturo Fournier Facio  13:03

Thank you very much. Good evening. Attorney Wilson. Yes, I have a couple of questions. Was there a public reaction to this person’s assassination or killing?

Courtney Wilson  13:29

I don’t know. I can tell you that there was more of a reaction to it ultimately, quibble, a quibble. That was really disappointing. And it traced its its origin to the US Department of Justice decision to try Mr. Warren with two other defendants. And the conviction was reversed on the basis of an improper joinder. And ultimately, he was tried by himself and acquitted. So there was a quite an unpleasant taste in everyone’s mouth when he was ultimately acquitted because it looked like it was a technical mistake that got him off.

Arturo Fournier Facio  14:15

Now to just pickup about that, was the case the same for the three of the officers, or it was a reverse only for one or some of them?

Courtney Wilson  14:28

I don’t know what what happened to the other two wasn’t particularly interested in them. They were really a bit players. They would be, one of them was the officer who drove Mr. Glover’s car and his body to the levee, soaked it, well go into the levee and then throw in a flare that of course blew up the car and burned the car and the body made forensic analysis, particularly the chest wound, impossible. I don’t know what what became of him.

Arturo Fournier Facio  15:06

I read somewhere that his skull was removed. Was there any evidence of who did it? Or does this had any way to undo the decision of the judge?

Courtney Wilson  15:25

I don’t think that that played into it at all, it was really a macabre footnote to this whole thing. But the, the real forensic evidence would have been the chest wound, whether it was whether the entry wounds were in the in the front, or the back. And that was impossible to determine after the burning.

Arturo Fournier Facio  15:50

You said that he was with another person in this trying to obtain those goods from the supermarket. What happened to the other person?

Courtney Wilson  16:02

Oh, Mr. Calloway. Really I don’t know, he was not a plaintiff. And he wasn’t really called as a witness. He was just sort of disappeared. He wasn’t all that important. As I say, we just shadowed the criminal trial, we never really had to prepare this thing. Because it was obvious even from the acquittal, that there was civil liability. And the mayor stepped up, did the right thing. So we never really had to dig down into the case.

Arturo Fournier Facio  16:44

So probably you didn’t know either about another person William Tanner, whose car was the one that they set on fire.

Courtney Wilson  16:54

Well, he got paid, he got paid for his car, I do know that. But that was that was all Mr. Tanner got out of this.

Arturo Fournier Facio  17:04

Also, we heard here in Costa Rica, and some other places in the world, of course, that  after Hurricane Katrina, there were many abuses by the police. Do you know anything of the sort?

Courtney Wilson  17:24

There was one other high profile related killing. And that was on the Danziger bridge, which is a bridge over a canal in New Orleans. And that involved another completely unjustified shooting. There were terms of abuses by police against against civilians. In relation to Katrina, I just read the six or 700 page book on the flood called Deluge. And I don’t recall much in that book about police abuse. There were other aspects of the police performance that were covered in this book. But there was very little about police abuse of civilians. We heard a lot of crazy stories. But none of those stories panned out.

Arturo Fournier Facio  18:40

So you are not aware of some other cases like that of Mr. Glover.

Courtney Wilson  18:46

No, the one that well, I’m aware of one, which is which is what the so called Danziger bridge case where a number of people were shot. But that’s the only other case like that, that I’m aware of growing out of Katrina.

Arturo Fournier Facio  19:04

Do you heard or could attend to what was relevant to the culpability of the officer? Or the New Orleans police department?

Courtney Wilson  19:17

Alright, I wasn’t able to hear you because there was some background noise of mine. Would you repeat your question, please?

Arturo Fournier Facio  19:28

Well, if you say there was at least another case you’re aware of, so it was that relevant to the culpability of the officer or any of the three officers or of the New Orleans Police Department itself?

Courtney Wilson  19:48

No, no, no relevance whatsoever to my case. I think it’s goes to the police culture is that they’re there. It’s not just the question of being trigger happy, they’re scared, and unreasonably so. And you just, I think that all goes back to hiring. Who do you, who do you trust? Who do you hire? You’ve got to hire non racist people. And you’ve got to weed them out.

Arturo Fournier Facio  20:30

Do you know if there is a policy regarding that decision by the police department? and human resources? If they think about this, that you just said?

Courtney Wilson  20:49

You’re asking me basically, am I familiar with their hiring procedures?

Arturo Fournier Facio  20:53

Hiring procedures? Yes.

Courtney Wilson  20:54

All right. I can I can tell you that I’m not. But I know that there’s a very good hiring procedure implemented by this professor Friedman, that is not used in New Orleans. And so I think that’s the best practice because it’s not used. Your query is New Orleans, following the best hiring practice.

Arturo Fournier Facio  21:22

Was there an independent civilian external review of the police use of force?

Courtney Wilson  21:31

Don’t know, I don’t know. But my experience with the internal civilian review board in New Orleans is that it’s ineffective.

Arturo Fournier Facio  21:44

So there is no board or an external civilian review?

Courtney Wilson  21:53

There is, but I can tell you that the police abuse has become a more minor part of my of my practice. I do more and more employment discrimination cases. So I can’t tell you whether there is or is not. If there is, it’s never mentioned in the news. I don’t, I don’t hear about it.

Arturo Fournier Facio  22:22

So what is your opinion or your evaluation of why did the justice system fail to Mr. Grover, or his family, because he had passed away?

Courtney Wilson  22:42

Well, I think that with respect to the criminal prosecution of Mr. Warren, there was a threshold technical mistake made to join his trial with with that of two other police officers who participated in the handling of Mr. Glover and the case after he was shot. So I think it was a technical failure. But ultimately, there was some justice delivered because the civil suits tracked the criminal prosecution, and they were settled favorably for the family.

Arturo Fournier Facio  23:23

Do you remember what basis was the federal civil rights case overturned?

Courtney Wilson  23:32

Yes, the basis for the appeal was misjoinder. That the trial, the cases should have been severed, each officer should have been tried separately.

Priscilla Ocen  23:45

And I just want to interject here and note that we’re at about 4:30 here on the Pacific Time, 7:30 Eastern. We have about 20 or so, 20 or less minutes are remaining the hearing. Just for your information, Commissioner Fournier.

Arturo Fournier Facio  24:04

Thank you. Also, I have read that there is no statute of limitations regarding killing. Do you think is there possibility as the family’s been expecting, so so I read that the officers might be held accountable by a criminal court?

Courtney Wilson  24:29

I’m not quite sure I understood the question. One more time, please.

Arturo Fournier Facio  24:32

Yes. It seems in Louisiana, there is no statute of limitation on killing. So even though so many years have passed, the families is still waiting for justice to be served. Then the question is, is there still nowadays, a possibility that any of the officers might be held accountable by a criminal court.

Courtney Wilson  25:07

The office in the Glover case? Yes. No, because they have all been tried and either convicted or acquitted. And to redo that would be double jeopardy.

Priscilla Ocen  25:25

Mr. Wilson, is it possible and just to clarify, Commissioner Fournier’s question, for there to be any, are all federal remedies? Have they been exhausted, for example, the civil rights violations or where the officers also tried for both civil, excuse me, both federal and state criminal offenses?

Courtney Wilson  25:52

The state deferred to the feds for the prosecution. And with respect to civil remedies, those have all been settled. So the matter is, is is completely finished both with respect to any criminal prosecution and any civil liability.

Priscilla Ocen  26:13

The answer is no.

Courtney Wilson  26:15

That’s if I understood your question. The answer is no. There Nope. No further remedies of any sort.

Priscilla Ocen  26:22

Thank you. Pardon my intrusion Commissioner, overturning the questioning back to you.

Arturo Fournier Facio  26:28

We have seen in other cases analyzed by this commission, that the officers allege that the deceased person was armed. Did Mr. Glover, this person had any arm on him? Or did he try to attack the police?

Courtney Wilson  26:55

Well, the first part of your question, he was not armed. And, of course, in Warren’s testimony, particularly in the absence of contradicting forensic evidence was that Glover approached him. Now, why Glover unarmed would approach armed policemen is beyond me, but that was Warren’s testimony.

Arturo Fournier Facio  27:21

It was just an approach, not endanger the, the physical stability or or the life of the officers?

Courtney Wilson  27:34

That’s what was claimed by that testimony, just to me seemed not credible.

Arturo Fournier Facio  27:45

Was there any video or days of the incident? Like they didn’t wear body cams?

Courtney Wilson  27:54

Oh, no I’m not sure body cameras were on the scene then.

Arturo Fournier Facio  28:05

Do you know if the police try to apply de escalation tactics before the use of lethal force?

Courtney Wilson  28:15

Well, Warren, claimed that he fired a warning shot. But unfortunately, the warning shot hit Mr. Glover square in the in the torso from the front of the back. That was the extent of de-escalation technique.

Arturo Fournier Facio  28:35

Was there evidence of that after the his body was burned out? Now?

Courtney Wilson  28:42

You couldn’t tell whether the, obviously you could tell if the warning shot was fading. So that type of testimony, same thing, again, not credible to me. And again, because the body was burned, there wasn’t any way you could dispute. forensically, Warren’s testimony that the man was advancing on him and threatening.

Arturo Fournier Facio  29:12

Returning to the, to the civil case. So it is over as well as the criminal case.

Courtney Wilson  29:19

Yes.

Arturo Fournier Facio  29:21

And there was no, no compensation to the family of Mr. Glover.

Courtney Wilson  29:27

That’s not correct. There was a very generous settlement funded by the city of New Orleans and as I said afterwards, the mayor privately apologized to the family for what happened.

Arturo Fournier Facio  29:42

He apologized but there was a settlement. Some amount of money was paid to the family.

Courtney Wilson  29:49

That’s correct.

Arturo Fournier Facio  29:55

Did, was there any possibility for the family and their lawyers to have any access to evidence available in a state custody or in police custody?

Courtney Wilson  30:10

Oh yeah, There’s very, very thorough discovery of all the evidence

Arturo Fournier Facio  30:25

In the, when the case went went to court, what was the response of the DA of the prosecutorial side of the of the trial?

Courtney Wilson  30:40

You mean, once once the matter, once the trial opened? How did the attorney, the US Attorney’s respond? I’m not quite sure what your question is.

Arturo Fournier Facio  30:55

Yes. Because Well, in every case, we have different sides, that the defendant, the plaintiffs, etc. So, and the prosecutor should prosecute the case. How was that attitude? How did they behave? Did they really try to to get a conviction against the officers?

Courtney Wilson  31:19

Oh, okay. Let me tell you, Yes, they did. The Department of Justice brought in a special team of very experienced prosecutors to take the lead in this case, and the local US Attorney’s supplemented the the heavy hitters brought in by the Department of Justice, It was the Department of Justice applied a lot of resources to this prosecution. Yes. All right.

Arturo Fournier Facio  31:51

So you said that there was also an apology from who the mayor or the City Council?

Courtney Wilson  31:59

The mayor himself.

Arturo Fournier Facio  32:01

The mayor himself, all right. It, was it public or private?

Courtney Wilson  32:08

Private and not at all publicized. I just know about it, because I’m one of the attorneys who handled the case.

Arturo Fournier Facio  32:15

And did he maintained his word about this apology, because we saw another case on Wednesday, that there was an apology, and then it was retracted.

Courtney Wilson  32:29

Oh, no, no, in fact, this this mayor is was very sincere in his apology, and very consistent. And, as a footnote, I will I will tell you that he removed some of the Confederate statues here in New Orleans, the most prominent of which he removed was General Robert E. Lee. In the circle in downtown New Orleans, though he was very sincere about his apology.

Arturo Fournier Facio  32:58

All right. And apart from that, either him at the mayor’s office or the police department did anything to change policies or patterns of police use of lethal force?

Courtney Wilson  33:21

I don’t know.

Arturo Fournier Facio  33:29

All right. Go into another side. There was a lot of covering by the media of the hurricane. How was that, how did the media covered about this case? How did they report about this case? Or was it blurred? amongst all the incidents that happened?

Courtney Wilson  33:57

Oh no, this was very prominently covered. It was a major story for a long time.

Arturo Fournier Facio  34:10

And did that help, in any ways, improvement of the judicial cases?

Courtney Wilson  34:22

I don’t, I don’t know. Presumably, anyone who had been, who had formed their opinion based on media exposure was weeded out from the jury. So I would I would say it probably, theoretically had no effect on the prosecution of the case.

Arturo Fournier Facio  34:45

All right. Was there any possibility, to acknowledge or demonstrate that somebody was lying about the initial narrative?

Courtney Wilson  34:58

I think that got burned up with the car. That was the, that was the best way to demonstrate who was lying, because I as I say, I knew both of the defense attorneys and they were extremely skillful. They eviscerated the witnesses so that the forensic evidence would have been dispositive. But as I say it was gone.

Arturo Fournier Facio  35:24

One last question. Because I have read that the family is still waiting for justice. Do you think that these officers have been made accountable of their actions?

Courtney Wilson  35:45

Everybody, but Warren, yes. Warren, the chief culprit got off. As I recall, most of the other people who were, are minor players were held accountable to some degree or another. One officer escaped any kind of accountability. He claimed that he had been under too much stress during the hurricane and and basically pled diminished mental capacity, and was not held accountable. But most of the other officers were.

Arturo Fournier Facio  36:24

Right. And where is Warren now. Is he still working as a police officer?

Courtney Wilson  36:30

He’s no longer in New Orleans. As I understand it, he went back to Pennsylvania. He was he was dismissed from the police force.

Arturo Fournier Facio  36:37

He was dismissed?

Courtney Wilson  36:38

I think so. Yeah. Yeah, he’s not. He was he’s never been back as a police officer in New Orleans,

Arturo Fournier Facio  36:45

Due to the Glover case?

Courtney Wilson  36:50

Yes. Oh, yeah. That’s it.

Arturo Fournier Facio  36:55

And what happened to McRae and McCabe?

Courtney Wilson 36:59

One of them was convicted. The other one was the one who pleaded mental instability because of the hurricane stress. I frankly, always got them confused, because there were two Irish guys, one Mac and the other one was Mac, and I can’t tell you what happened to the two of them. I can’t distinguish.

Arturo Fournier Facio  37:23

Alright, I think that will be all from me. Thank you very much. All right.

Courtney Wilson  37:30

Well, thank you. I’m enjoying.

Priscilla Ocen  37:32

Thank you very much, Mr. Fournier for your questions. And thank you, Attorney Wilson, for your responses and for your testimony. Given that the commissioner has no further questions, that will conclude the hearing in the case of Henry Glover. We will now have a short break, we’ll resume in on the hour, which would be 5pm Pacific 8pm. Eastern, with the case of Kayla Moore. Again, I want to thank you, Mr. Wilson, for being here and talking about this case and helping us to better understand the circumstances that led to the murder of Henry Glover at the hands of officer Warren, a member of the New Orleans police department. Thank you very much for your time and attention. We will stand, will stand in recess. We’ll take a break till five. Thank you all.

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