Prosecutors invoked the wisdom of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
They explained away differing descriptions of the shooters who waged a gun battle a block away from a second-line parade in Central City three years ago, resulting in the killing of a 2-year-old boy as he sat on his grandmother’s lap inside a parked car. They downplayed weak testimony from an apparent target of the shooting, Sean Briggs, who refused to back up an earlier statement in which he identified cousins Jamiron Pollard, 31, and Bernell “Benny” Pollard, 24, as the shooters.
They even recited poetry.
“Childhood is a kingdom where nobody dies,” Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorney Fran Bridges said. “Well, Jeremy Galmon doesn’t live there anymore.”
Whatever the argument, it was enough to persuade a jury Friday to convict the cousins on charges of second-degree murder and two counts each of attempted murder in the September 2010 incident at First and Dryades streets. The shooting spree claimed the toddler’s life and provoked a groundswell of community outrage.
After three days of testimony and more than two hours of deliberation, the jury of nine men and three women found the cousins guilty as charged on all counts.
“I think it demonstrates that there was overwhelming evidence of the guilt of these two men,” District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said shortly after the verdict. “I hope the jury feels like we do, that there’s too much of this foolishness, too much of this gunplay.”
Cannizzaro noted the shooting death of a 1-year-old girl who was gunned down late Thursday in crossfire just six blocks from where Jeremy Galmon was killed. The slaying prompted a failed bid by the cousins’ defense attorneys Friday to canvass the jurors on their knowledge of the incident.
“We don’t want babies in this community getting killed,” Cannizzaro said. “That’s unacceptable.”
For prosecutors, the case centered in large part on Briggs, who had identified the cousins not long after the shooting but on Thursday attempted to recant, claiming a loss of memory. Briggs had been offered immunity from a related gun charge for his truthful testimony. Just how Cannizzaro’s office intends to honor that deal was unclear Friday. Cannizzaro spokesman Christopher Bowman said the office would review the case.
The jury “apparently took into account what Mr. Briggs initially said and not the recantations,” Cannizzaro said. “We’re very gratified.”
The case wrapped up Friday with testimony from admitted shoplifting addict Janice Celestine, a longtime family friend of Bernell Pollard. She said she was at the parade and ducked in an alley when the shooting began. She swore he wasn’t the shooter.
“That was not him. I’m telling the truth,” Celestine said.
Another witness, Pamela Benoit, also said she couldn’t identify the shooter while she was ducking into a nearby bar, but said he was taller than 6 feet and slender.
“I know Jamiron Pollard and Bernell Pollard were not the guys I saw shooting,” she said.
Descriptions of the shooters varied during the trial — a point that the defense attorneys sought to drive home during their closing statements on Friday.
“When one comes to the spring of justice, they’d like a refreshing drink. The state has failed miserably today,” said Arthur Harris, the attorney for Bernell Pollard.
“You can take a drink from that spring,” prosecutor Brittany Reed responded, “because there is justice there, and that is proved.”
Prosecutors highlighted what a detective called a tearful 2010 interview given to police by Sedale Dorsey, 23, who was killed about a month after the second-line parade shooting as he sat in a wheelchair in the 2000 block of South Liberty Street.
The motive for that killing was unclear, but it led last year to the conviction of Joseph Peters on a manslaughter count, and a 40-year prison sentence.
Prosecutors in this week’s trial produced 15 witnesses and more than 70 pieces of evidence. But as the cousins’ attorneys pointed out, the murder weapon was never recovered and there was no gunshot residue found, and no DNA.
Earlier Friday, prosecutors played an audio tape from a jail phone call that Bernell Dorsey made from jail the night before, in which it was described that Briggs “helped us out” with his wavering testimony.
On Thursday, Briggs claimed to have just seen “people running around,” but said he couldn’t identify the shooters. That differed from the earlier statement he purportedly gave to police, tagging the cousins as the shooters.
In the jail call, Bernell Pollard commented on the procession of female witnesses who came forward to describe the shooters and the bloody scene around the car where the toddler’s bloody body lay.
“This s--t is so crazy,” he said. “I ain’t worried about it, though.”
Prosecutors tried to persuade the jury that Briggs backed down out of self-preservation.
“We are dealing with situations that are controlled mainly, and solely sometimes, by fear,” Reed said.
The cousins, who face automatic life prison sentences, are scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 27. Both still face charges in a separate double murder on Christmas Day in 2007, also in Central City.