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New Orleans Fed Jury Sentences Bank Robber to Death for Killing Sheriff’s Deputy

When a law enforcement person is killed a jury’s indignation always seems to be greater. In this case the indignation translated into a death penalty.

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By Paul Rioux
New Orleans Times-Picayune
NEW ORLEANS — A jury sentenced John Wayne Johnson to death Wednesday for killing an Orleans Parish sheriff’s deputy during a botched Algiers bank robbery in 2004, just the second death penalty imposed in New Orleans federal court since capital punishment was restored for federal crimes in 1988.

The jury deliberated three hours before reaching its unanimous decision. That same jury had found Johnson guilty on May 19 of killing Lt. Sidney Zaffuto in a Jan. 8, 2004 gun battle inside the former Iberia Bank on Gen. DeGaulle Drive, where Zaffuto was working an off-duty detail.

In making their case for the death penalty, prosecutors had presented testimony from one of Johnson’s accomplices in the bank robbery that Johnson, 56, had committed a murder in 1974 in Jefferson Parish, which had gone unsolved. That accomplice, Herbert Smith, 63, said in a videotaped deposition, that Johnson had admitted to him that he killed Joe Gennaro, the owner of Ruiz’s Restaurant during a robbery on May 3, 1974.

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