Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Sean Bell Case

New York is pretty tense today, if you believe what you read and hear.

The reason is the acquittal of three police officers for manslaughter in the shooting death of one Sean Bell and the wounding of two of his friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield outside the Kalua strip club in Queens back on November 25, 2006.

What basically appears to have happened is that after a night of drinking and general confusion, Sean Bell and two friends got into an altercation with a man outside the club and some witnesses testified that Bell and others threatened to go to their car and get their guns to settle matters.

At that point,once the trio were inside their vehicle, they apparently drove into a police van there on stakeout after which Joseph Guzman struck a police detective who got out of the vehicle, Gescard Isnora, with the car - fibers were found on the bumper, The three cops on the scene ended up fired something like fifty shots into the car, killing Bell and wounding the other two.

The prosecution's case was that Bell and his friends felt 'threatened' that the three cops - Isnora, Michael Oliver and Marc Cooper - failed to identify themselves, and that the NYPD did sloppy forensic work in the aftermath.

The defense said they clearly identified themselves,that they believed the men in the car were armed, and that they believed they were being shot at when they fired. One lawyer suggested that the real culprit was Guzman, describing him as "the catalyst of the event."

The burden of proof was on the prosecution, as it always is in these matters. With a lot of the prosecution witnesses contradicting themselves on the stand and deviating from earlier statements made to the police investigators,the judge ended up acquitting the three detectives.

Al Sharpton, of course, is on this like a fly on horse manure, stirring up the natives and threatening to shut the city down for delivering the 'wrong' verdict.

So...what have we got here? A tragedy, sure, but a rather nasty double standard too.

Sean Bell and his friends were obviously drinking and partying...and not thinking very well. I've seen drunken club altercations end up like this before, with somebody threatening to get their shooter and permanently air condition somebody,and while its not limited to black folks, it's prevalent in significant parts of black culture - because of gangsta rap and the idealization of the thug life.

A lot of the time, there might actually be no gun. It's somebody fronting, trying to show how rough and tough he is,and this sort of brew hah hah ends up without fireworks. But sometimes,people get called on it...and if there's a fresh altercation with somebody who might have good reason to believe the party in question is packing,people can get killed.

I think what might plausibly have happened here is that after the police van was hit, Isnora ID'd himself as an NYPD officer - there was no reason for him not to - and Guzman, the convicted felon who was driving panicked, knocked Isnora over with the car and tried to make a run for it. And that's probably the point at which the cops began firing ...maybe even believing, because of what had just happened, that some of the shots were coming from the guys in the car.

The other alternative,the one the Al Sharptons of the world would have us believe, is that these three racist cops deliberately decided to shoot themselves some black folks, and now the NYPD is engaged in a cover up.

Of course, the fact that two of the cops, Isnora and Cooper happen to be black has nothing to do with getting people to buy that scenario...not when there's a $50 million wrongful death suit filed against the city by the mother of Bell's two children in the mix, something Rev Al is probably counting on getting a piece of for his 'activism' if all goes according to plan.

That's usually the deal when he gets involved...a piece of the action.

Another thing that bothered me about this was what I consider a hideous disregard for justice.

In any murder or manslaughter case, the burden of proof is always on the prosecution, and I think rightfully so. There's a presumption of innocence until proven guilty in our jurisprudence, and whenever the prosecution fails to adequately make its case, the defendants are acquitted. That's exactly what happened in the OJ Simpson murder trial- and rightfully so, in my opinion.

Since the same thing happened here - the prosecution failing to make its case - what right do people have to riot or tie up traffic or obstruct others and threaten take the law into their own hands because they didn't like a verdict?

Isn't that kind of..the lynch mob mentality?

Or does that standard only apply to one kind of people?

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