The Desire Terrorist
A Chilling Trial: Part 1 -- The Prosecution Attacks
In early April 1996, Judge Berrigan faced a moral dilemma. Prior to her nomination to the federal bench three years earlier she headed the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and was a staunch opponent of capital punishment. Now, as the judge assigned to the Len Davis case, she would have to preside over a trial in which the death penalty might await two of the defendants if they were found guilty.
Jury selection began on Monday, April 8. Forty-two prospective jurors were interviewed on that day and, by Thursday, April 11, more than eighty others would undergo similar scrutiny. The final selection of twelve jurors and four alternates included eleven women and five men, four of whom were black (three women and one man). The trial jury included only one black woman.
In a touch of irony, on April 9, the two owners of one of the New Orleans area's largest gun shops were convicted of selling firearms to convicted felons, minors and out-of-state residents -- all violations of federal statutes. This was the same shop where Paul Hardy reportedly bought his weapons, including the gun used to kill Kim Groves.
Opening arguments began on Monday, April 15 as a team of determined prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's office began laying out their case. The team consisted of Constantine Georges, Michael McMahon, Peter McCloskey and Nelson Thayer. U.S. Attorney Jordan made an opening statement and popped in frequently during the two-week trial but he did not actively participate in the questioning of witnesses. The defense attorneys were Dwight Doskey and Milton Masinter for Davis, Patrick McGinity and Dan Markey for Hardy and Henry Julien for Causey.
Witnesses called by the government included a number of NOPD officers and rank and file patrolmen who participated in the investigation of Groves' murder. They also included a forensic pathologist, FBI agents, a ballistics expert and a diver who recovered the barrel of the murder weapon from the bottom of the Industrial Canal. The police officials and patrolmen included the sergeant who investigated Groves' complaint to IAD, officers who responded to the signal 30 when Groves was shot and those who handled the follow-up investigation.
The FBI agents included some who had listened to the tapes made of Davis and his cohorts and the 911 calls that had gone out in connection with the Groves shooting. The ballistics experts confirmed that the fatal shot that killed Groves was, indeed, from a 9 mm Beretta. The forensic expert, in addition to confirming the manner of Groves' death, also testified to the presence of cocaine and cocaine metabolites in her system during the autopsy.
One of the homicide detectives investigating the murder verified that a glass pipe and steel rod used to ingest cocaine had been found in Groves' possession and the pipe tested positive for cocaine residue. Other detectives who had participated in the search of two apartments inhabited by Hardy testified to finding a virtual arsenal in each place, including a Ruger, loaded magazines for an AK 47 rifle and a number of smaller pistols. Crack cocaine, measuring scales and roughly $4,000 in cash were also found, according to published reports.
But the star witnesses for the prosecution were Williams and Jackson. During his lengthy testimony on the stand, Jackson admitted to being "in the game." Among other things that meant being a drug dealer, convicted felon and attempted murderer. When asked if Causey was "in the game," he replied affirmatively. He also admitted driving Hardy and Causey to the murder scene in his blue 1991 Nissan Maxima.
Describing the scenario that led up to the shooting, Jackson said he dropped Hardy off around the corner from where Groves was, parked the car and waited until Hardy came running back. "I hit the b----," Jackson quoted Hardy as saying. On the way back to the Florida project, Jackson said, Hardy unscrewed the gun's barrel, threw it into the Industrial Canal and replaced it with a new barrel. Hardy then gave the gun to Causey, Jackson told the court.
The next day, according to Jackson, Hardy had said to him, "Lennie kept bothering him about doing this." Although admitting under oath that he couldn't be positive "Lennie" meant Len Davis, he seemed certain that that's who it was.
Under cross-examination from defense attorneys, Jackson admitted to his own criminal record and acknowledged that he had initially lied to the FBI. Also under cross-examination, when asked if he was a friend of Hardy's, Jackson replied, "I'm a friend of his, but he's not to be trusted. He killed seven people from the neighborhood, seven neighbors, then killed another in the neighborhood."
Williams's testimony was even longer and more explicit in many ways. He admitted that, during the chase on October 11, 1994, he had hit Norwood on the back of the head with his service revolver. He also admitted to having a verbal exchange with Groves when she confronted him about the assault and, under cross-examination, he also admitted that it wasn't Davis who assaulted Norwood. Nonetheless, Davis "got real angry and stated that he was tired of IAD and that he was going to send them a message."
While prosecutors played chilling excerpts of tapes to a somber, stone-faced jury, Williams described the scene that evolved over a six-hour period on October 13, 1994 as Davis stalked Groves' neighborhood, looking to set her up for Hardy to come in and make the kill. At approximately 10:50 that night Williams said he got the "signal 30 NAT" call from Davis, indicating that the deed was done. In all, about 25 tapes or excerpts from them were played for the jury during the prosecution's portion of the trial.
Under withering cross-examination, during which time defense attorneys tried to torpedo Williams's credibility and plant "reasonable doubt" into the minds of the jury, Williams stuck by his story. He explained that he, not Davis, should have been the one Groves filed the brutality complaint against but he did not try to talk Davis out of the murder or of being angry with IAD. He acknowledged that there was no tape recording in which Davis told him he wanted to kill Groves. And finally, at the end of his testimony, Williams said he thought Davis was a good cop.