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Former New Orleans policeman again sentenced to death

The Associated Press   

BATON ROUGE, La.— Former New Orleans policeman Len Davis was sentenced to death for a second time Wednesday for ordering the murder of a woman who filed a brutality complaint against him.

U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan handed down the sentence in a courtroom in Baton Rouge, where New Orleans federal courts moved after Hurricane Katrina.

Davis was convicted in 1996 on a charge that he violated the civil rights of Kim Groves when he ordered her death in 1994. Although the conviction held up on appeal, the death setence was thrown out and a second sentencing trial was held earlier this year, when a jury again sentenced him to death.

Davis acted as his own lawyer in the re-sentencing trial, arguing among other things that he was merely trying to trap Groves in a drug deal when she was killed coincidentally. He also claimed that he was suffering from stress because of his dangerous job as a police officer.

Appeals are automatic in death penalty cases so it remains unclear when, if ever, Davis will be executed.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said the second jury verdict shows support for the federal death penalty in the case.

"This case involved the murder of a citizen for filing a complaint against a police officer," Letten said in a statement. "Two juries have said loudly and clearly that this behavior will not be tolerated and will be punished in the most severe manner."

The Groves case grew out of a federal investigation of Davis' other illegal activities.

At the time of Groves' killing in October 1994, Davis was the target of an FBI sting that included a tap on his cell telephone. Federal agents had set up a fake cocaine warehouse and Davis was looking for other corrupt officers to guard the building.

Eleven New Orleans police officers were eventually convicted in the drug sting, including Davis, who got an additional sentence of life in prison.

Davis' call to convicted hitman Paul Hardy ordering Groves' killing was recorded. So was his reaction to news from the police department that she had been shot: "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Rock, rock-a-bye!"

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