A federal judge has indefinitely postponed the trial of Roland Bourgeois Jr., accused of firing a shotgun at three black men in Algiers in the wake of Hurricane Katrina after warning that he intended to shoot “anything coming up this street darker than a brown paper bag.”
The move comes after a long series of delays and questions about whether Bourgeois is competent to stand trial.
U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon on Friday granted a motion to continue a trial date for Bourgeois “until the defendant attains the physical competency to assist his attorney and to attend trial.”
Lemmon did not spell out Bourgeois’ ailments, saying only that he “is currently physically incompetent.”
Bourgeois, 50, was indicted four years ago on counts of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, false statements, and civil rights and firearms violations.
He is accused of firing at three black men who were trying to evacuate by foot through Algiers Point on Sept. 1, 2005, three days after Katrina made landfall. At least one of the men was wounded, prosecutors said.
Bourgeois, who is white, allegedly bragged that he “got” one.
Later, he “displayed to others a baseball cap, which appeared to have blood on it, which had fallen from the head of DH, an African-American man” who had been shot at Pelican Avenue and Vallette Street, the indictment states. Bourgeois also is accused of ordering a witness to lie about the shooting.
Much of the detail behind the numerous delays in the case remains under seal.
In 2012, U.S. Magistrate Joseph Wilkinson found Bourgois competent to stand trial. At the time, three experts had deemed Bourgeois to be mentally competent, though suffering from medical conditions including depression and anxiety. A Tulane University psychiatric specialist, Dr. John W. Thompson, called Bourgeois “marginally competent” to stand trial, Wilkinson said.
That decision came a year after Thompson had deemed Bourgeois to have major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Bourgeois also faced medical troubles including liver disease that made him eligible for a transplant, according to a court filing. At that point, he was ruled incompetent to stand trial.
Lemmon ordered twice-yearly updates regarding Bourgeois’ condition. The decision followed a June 12 report by Thompson based on a new evaluation of Bourgeois on May 19.
Lemmon’s decision came in response to a motion from the federal public defender’s office, which is representing Bourgeois. The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, which is prosecuting Bourgeois, did not oppose it.
Bourgeois was released from the Federal Medical Center in Butler, N.C., in April 2012, after he had been deemed competent.
He was last scheduled for trial in April.
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