Following up the news story about the seven officers who were charged with murder and attempted murder during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, two of the officers charged in this criminal case have requested that their cases be thrown out.
At the crux of this story is the issue of partial immunity. Officer Ignatius Hills and Sergeant Kenneth Bowen claim that they were given partial immunity in exchange for their testimony at a grand jury hearing (a grand jury in a federal criminal case decides whether a person will be held to answer for criminal charges).
What is the difference between partial immunity and total immunity? If the officers in this story were granted total immunity in exchange for their testimony, the prosecutors would not be able to charge the officers for the murders and attempted murders at issue. If the officers were granted partial immunity on the other hand, the prosecutors could proceed with charging the officers with murder and attempted murder, however, the prosecutors may not use the officers’ own testimony against them.
It appears from the news article, Sergeant Bowen argued that the criminal charges against him should be dropped because there is insufficient evidence to prove the prosecution’s case due to the effect of partial immunity (hence, without Bowen’s own grand jury testimony).
It will be interesting to see whether the judge will agree with Sergeant Bowen, but the judge will likely find that there is sufficient evidence apart from Sergeant Bowen’s own testimony to proceed with the case.