July 23rd, 2013
11:59 PM ET

Race and Justice in America: Jury of your peers

The killing of Trayvon Martin is raising serious questions about how young Black men are supposed to act.  That is an issue William and Valerie Bell know all too well.   Police shot and killed their son, Sean, and wounded two others, outside a nightclub.  Police said they believed at least one of the men had a gun, but no gun was found.  The officers fired 50 shots in just a few seconds.  The three officers were tried and acquitted.. but later lost their jobs.  William and Valerie Bell joined the panel to discuss this issue.

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."]

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