Friday, April 25, 2008
When I first heard the police in Bell’s case were pronounced innocent I thought, damn! Another Diallo! A black man in NYC needs to wear one of those bright orange 'don't shoot me' hunting jackets just to go get a cup of freaking coffee! Now I’m no lawyer, but those book types in Boston taught me a thing or two about the law, for all the money they took off me.
I told myself, calm down, and see what the hell happened. Is Sean Bell another Amadou Diallo? Now you probably know the details: one Jamaica Queens bar; three drunk suspects; one patron altercation; three undercover cops; one ‘yo, get my gun’; 50 conflicting witnesses; assorted car crashing; 50 police bullets; no actual suspect gun; one dead groom – and one resulting shit storm.
Two things caught my attention. First, the police defendants chose a judge rather than a jury to decide their fate. Judges, on balance, render more unbiased decisions than do juries, partly because appeals judges are more quick to overturn those same judges, if their administration or read of the law is off-base. So if you are innocent, going for the judge is smart. If you are guilty, better to take your chances with the pliable, but sacrosanct, jury system.
The second thing, all those bullets against unarmed men would seem to point to guilt, but does it really? The decision to shoot the first bullet is what matters, and this seems to have occurred after the intoxicated Mr. Bell used his car in a lethal manner against the unmarked police van. All remaining bullets are just poor marksmanship.
So from where I sit, five thousand miles away, I feel badly for Mr. Bell and his family, but unlike the truly innocent Mr. Diallo, Bell and his cohorts seem to have been the main precipitators of his demise. The prosecutor should appeal these verdicts, to prove them out, and then we should learn what we already know about even the mere talk of getting guns - it leads to people getting shot.
Lastly, the Diallo case was involuntary manslaughter at the least, come on America!
James C. Collier
4/29/2007 P.S. My earlier post failed to present that while incompetence, as demopnstrated by the NYC police, may not rise to the point of being criminal, it is serious nonetheless and rightfully punishable. These officers face federal, civil, and departmental judgement and are not (nor should they be) off the hook for their actions.
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