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April 28th, 2008
04:50 PM ET

In search of justice: the Sean Bell verdicts

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/CRIME/04/25/sunny.bell/art.bell.cops.jpg
caption="NYPD detectives Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper gambled on a bench trial."]

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NEW YORK - All weekend, people have been asking me what I think about the acquittals of those three NYPD cops who shot and killed Sean Bell at a Queens nightclub right after his bachelor party there. Bell was unarmed, but police testified they thought he had a gun and that their lives were in danger.

Jami Floyd
360° Contributor
"In Session" Anchor

Most of all, I feel for his parents and fiancée who sat in that courtroom, day after day, quietly hoping for justice. Then they heard the judge say the words "not guilty."

Now, I know there has been case after sorry case of unjustified killings of black men by cops in this country. But each one has to be evaluated on its own merits. And everyone is presumed innocent, police included.

Even with 50 shots fired, the prosecution failed to make its case beyond a reasonable doubt because it couldn't prove the cops were not in fear for their lives. And that's what the law required.

So now, Sean Bell's family should take it to the Department of Justice. Because federal prosecutors can likely prove his civil rights were violated - even if state prosecutors can't prove a crime.

Editor's note: Read more Jami Floyd blogs on “In Session”


Filed under: Jami Floyd • Sean Bell case
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Reggie

    Once again, here we go.. How can anyone with any common sense or descent moral fiber say that JUSTICE was served. You have a judge that used the past lives of the deceased and his friends to justify this so-called verdict, how much more prejudice can one be. It only happens that the black youth are shot down like hunted animals. Can someone please find a case where a white boy has been shot 40 to 50+ times by officerrs and have gotten off. Probably wil have to wait on that one. Yet the media is more concerned about Jeremiah Wright. Who's lost sight of what's important in America? I'll tell you, "The Media" and what ever Americans think that everything in this country is ok.

    April 28, 2008 at 11:13 pm |
  2. Qwaun

    Im very desturbed by this verdict. Its seems to me that animals have more rights than a human being in new york. ill never visit that state ever again.

    April 28, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  3. Missy

    I feel for Sean Bell's family for their loss however I cannot believe that these 3 police officers shot their weapons without cause. These are not rogue police officers – they're involved in high crime areas where people would shoot them without hesitation because they are cops. The family and friends of Sean Bell should be angry with the community that this took place in. If it weren't for all the illegal activities in the first place, this would've never happened.

    April 28, 2008 at 9:32 pm |
  4. John

    "They fired 50 shots??Was that really necessary??"

    Until you have been in a shooting, please do not think that this is a huge number of shots. When confronted with a vehicle, the police are going to shoot everything they have and do it extremely fast, because handgun bullets don't stop or penetrate cars very well. 99% of what you see on TV and in the movies regarding firearms, especially firearms vs. vehicles, is completely wrong.

    April 28, 2008 at 8:45 pm |
  5. Harry

    I guess I am getting old and cynical, as I can't understand why people are so distraught with this verdict. Juries rarely decide cases on merit, but the quality of the individuals on trial, versus the victim.

    When I was a teenage, barely out of high school, I could not understand how a jury could return a not guilty verdict for a person that told a whole bunch of us what he was going to do and then did it, exactly as he described.

    The difference was he was from an upstanding fine family and the victim was generally considered less than admirable. The Grand Jury played right into the Prosecutor's will, by only charging him with 1st degree murder. No one was going to send this kid to jail for life, for killing who he killed. If he had been charged with manslaughter, yes, he would probably have gone to jail.

    In this case, cops were on trial. It takes more than facts to convict a cop.... it takes evidence of the cop being of low moral character.

    Harry
    Ky.

    April 28, 2008 at 8:42 pm |
  6. E.J.

    I'm fine with the verdict. The family has every right to be angry – they are the family.

    The media appeared as if they were salivating – waiting for people to riot – and they didn't. All they could say was "People are angry!"

    April 28, 2008 at 7:51 pm |
  7. Mike in NYC

    Michael, NC wrote:

    "Sean should be happily married and starting a family..."

    He had already started. They had two kids.

    Mary wrote:

    "But I understood all the people involved were very drunk and the witnesses told too many different stories of what happened."

    Whatever happened that day, the witnesses' lack of credibility sank the prosecution's case.

    April 28, 2008 at 7:24 pm |
  8. Henry MC

    ANDERSON,THE FACT THAT 50 BULLETS WENT INTO THAT CAR WITH NO RETURN FIRE MEANS ONE THING AND ONE THING ONLY AND THAT IS THOSE GUYS WAS BEING ASSINATED,THOSE DETECTIVES ACTE VERY IRRESPONSIBLE.ONE OF THEM SAID THEY DONT REMEMBER RELOADING THEIR GUN,NOW LET ME SAY THIS,TO RELOAD A GUN YOU MUST PUSH A BUTTON DROP THE USED CLIP REACH FOR THE LOADED ONE PLACE IT IN THE BUNT OF THE GUN COCK THE CHAMBER TO ENJECT ANOTHER BULLET IN THE CHAMBER THEN FIRE,SO HE IS TELLING US AFTER DOING ALL OF THAT HE DONT REMEMBER THATS OBSURD THOSE GUYS ARE AS GUILTY AS GUILTY GET,BUT I KNEW THE RESULTS WAS GONNA TURN OUT THIS WAY,BECAUSE NYPD THINKS THEY ARE ABOVE THE LAW.MOST COPS THINK THAT.FOR SOME REASON THEY GET THE BENIFIT OF THE DOUBT WHICH IS WRONG.

    April 28, 2008 at 6:58 pm |
  9. Mary

    It is sad when anyone loses his or her life at such a young age. But I understood all the people involved were very drunk and the witnesses told too many different stories of what happened. The judge probably made the correct verdict given the testimony.

    April 28, 2008 at 6:26 pm |
  10. Michael, NC

    This story is really upsetting. I have NO doubt that this was murder. Sean should be happily married and starting a family, but instead his family and fiancé have been betrayed by our justice system.

    These officers and that judge/jury will get theirs. Karma is HEAVY.

    April 28, 2008 at 6:04 pm |
  11. Arachnae

    "Even with 50 shots fired, the prosecution failed to make its case beyond a reasonable doubt because it couldn’t prove the cops were not in fear for their lives."

    But you can't prove a negative. So if that's the standard, anyone can get away with murder.

    April 28, 2008 at 6:02 pm |
  12. anne newfoundland canada

    They fired 50 shots??Was that really necessary??
    And THEY were in fear of THEIR lives?

    That verdict just boggles one's mind,in my opinion.I just cannot see a NOT GUILTY in this,whatsoever.

    My heart goes out to his family,and his fiancee-they did not seem to get the justice they wanted at all.

    April 28, 2008 at 5:18 pm |
  13. Cleo

    I wish more could be done for the family because justice was denied. I hope the Dept. of Justice takes it upon themselves to render this situation right.

    April 28, 2008 at 5:03 pm |