The Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A Louisiana man was convicted Wednesday of gunning down five teenagers in a grisly crime that prompted the governor to bring National Guard troops back to New Orleans to help curb violence in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Michael Anderson, 23, was found guilty of five counts of first-degree murder. The jury that convicted him will now decide whether he should face the death penalty.
Prosecutors said Anderson shot the teens at an intersection, but police couldn't pinpoint exactly what motivated the killings.
Prosecutors relied on the testimony of three convicted felons who said Anderson admitted to the shootings in jail, and an eyewitness, Torrie Williams, who was at first reluctant to come forward because she said she didn't want to be involved. Witnesses in New Orleans have often been reluctant to testify, fearing reprisals.
Williams said she was on the street looking for her boyfriend June 17, 2006, when saw Anderson shoot the teenagers - brothers Arsenio Hunter, 16, and Markee Hunter, 19; Warren Simeon, 17; Iraum Taylor, 19; and Reggie Dantzler, 19.
"I hope people will now recognize that we are there and the police are there to keep witnesses safe and that more people will come forward to testify," Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said.
The defense questioned Williams' testimony, saying a federal prosecutor testified she frequently asked for money from the state and about the federal witness protection program. The federal prosecutor said she received money for necessities such as rent and groceries.
The defense attorneys said they would appeal the verdict.
Murder and other crimes plummeted the first few months after Katrina hit in August 2005 and flooded 80 percent of New Orleans. But crime started increasing, and the shootings prompted then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco to resend National Guard soldiers and state police to help stave off street violence.
The jury must return an unanimous decision for Anderson to get the death penalty - a punishment that hasn't been handed down in New Orleans since 1997.