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Katrina Hospital Murder Case Closed, But Civil Cases Continue

Posted Aug 7, 2007 12:29 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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The criminal case against two nurses and a doctor accused of murdering hospital patients while working under horrendous conditions during Hurricane Katrina is now at an end, following a grand jury's refusal to indict Dr. Anna Pou last month, prosecutors told the judge in the case yesterday. But it appears that the focus is now likely to shift to civil litigation.

"The attorney general's investigation is closed, there is no continuing investigation, no one is targeted," said Assistant Attorney General Julie Cullen, according to the Associated Press. "This case is closed." Charges against the two nurses were dropped earlier, when they were given immunity in order to compel them to testify. Originally, all three women faced nine counts of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder.

However, the case is still before District Judge Calvin Johnson, as lawyers from state Attorney General Charles Foti's office seek the unsealing of documents they had asked the judge to keep confidential at the beginning of the investigation into the Memorial Medical Center deaths during the August 2005 storm. The judge is scheduled to rule Aug. 16.

Foti's office says they are seeking the documents in order to respond to numerous Freedom of Information Act requests. His office also released a number of documents after the grand jury refused to indict Pou on July 24—a move that, AP reports, several legal experts described as "unusual," saying that it "appears to be aimed at justifying his arrest of the women."

Pou is defending three civil suits over patient deaths; a fourth was dropped after the grand jury declined to indict her, according to AP. She has herself filed suit seeking state reimbursement of her defense costs, as discussed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post.

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