Thursday, September 22, 2005

Engulfed evidence puts New Orleans court cases in doubt

Evidence from an estimated 3,000 criminal cases in New Orleans has been submerged in the toxic floodwaters that swamped police headquarters and the courthouse. It's unknown whether the evidence will be usable in prosecutions.
Thousands of witnesses and victims involved in the cases are scattered across the nation, and New Orleans authorities face an enormous task in locating them.
More than three weeks after the flooding from Hurricane Katrina began to devastate New Orleans, the crippling impact to the city's justice system is becoming more clear. A problem that began with the breakdown of the city's police force during the chaos and looting that accompanied the flooding has ballooned into a crisis local and federal officials say could make it difficult for New Orleans to maintain order on its own for years.
The 1,700-member New Orleans police force which had about one-third of its officers flee the city or go missing during the flooding has been propped up by hundreds of National Guard troops and federal law enforcement agents.
FBI Director Robert Mueller, whose agency has been helping the city's recovery efforts, said Wednesday that most of the department's buildings and much of its equipment have been "wiped out."...


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