Prosecutor also 'on trial' in New Orleans homicide case

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Many observers have questioned why government prosecutors would charge a pair of Louisiana nursing home owners for criminally negligent homicide after an unprecedented natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina.

With the owners' high-profile case headed to court at press time, it became apparent they weren't the only ones on trial. State Attorney General Charles Foti, hot in the stretch run of a re-election campaign, also was under the spotlight. 

“It's unusual from the outset, because most cases of negligent homicide aren't prosecuted criminally – they're dealt with in the civil courts,” said Dane Ciolino, a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans. “Some look at this as Charles Foti trying to vindicate himself after the Memorial debacle” in which he failed to achieve indictments against a doctor and two nurses he accused of murder after Katrina.

Foti intended to emphasize that Sal and Mabel Manganos' St. Rita's facility was the only nursing home in St. Bernard Parish not to evacuate.

Defense lawyers say there was a rush to judgment two years ago when Foti canceled a scheduled interview with the couple after more than 30 residents were found dead at their nursing home. Instead, prosecutors filed charges directly that day.

The defense planned to blame the deaths on various government's responses after Katrina.

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