Sean Bell Verdict Sticks to Script
by Juan Gonzalez
New York Daily News
Friday, April 25th 2008, 10:19 AM
It is the nightmare that keeps recurring.
Whether its Amadou Diallo and the 41-shot barrage in the
Bronx, or Timothy Stansbury opening the roof door of his
public housing building only to be gunned down without
warning, or the 50 shots unleashed on Sean Bell.
It's all become predictable - after much public fanfare,
sometimes even a trial, our courts say no crime was
involved in these heart-breaking shootings of unarmed
Anyone who spent time in the Sean Bell trial knows the
prosecutors were only going through the motions. The
absymal New York Knicks had a better game plan this
season, and far more desire, than the prosecutors of
Detectives Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper.
You couldn't help feeling they mailed it in, and Supreme
Court Judge Arthur Cooperman only stamped it.
It does not matter whether Bell , Joseph Guzman and Trent
Benefield were choir boys or thugs. The simple fact is
they had no guns.
There was an altercation outside a strip joint. Words
were exchanged. Bell and his two friends were clearly
filled with alcohol, but they walked away. Whether one
of them said he was going to get a gun or not was never
As they got into their car, they were confronted by a
man waiving a gun at them. Witnesses, even cops who took
the stand, contradicted each other as to whether Isnora
identified himself as cop.
An unmarked police van with no lights flashing drove up
the street into the path of Bell 's car. Ask yourself for
a moment: If you had just left an argument with some
stranger and you suddenly see a man rushing at you with
a gun, and then some van drives up and blocks your exit,
what would you do?
Would you wait around and ask some polite questions? Or
would you try to speed away from the scene as fast as
possible - even if it meant your car hitting the
stranger with gun?
I know what I would do - and I'm not trained to react
instantly in life and death situations.
Neither was Sean Bell, who was drunk, and who no doubt
wanted to be alive for his wedding.
The only ones on Liverpool Street that morning who had
professional training in such situations were Isnora,
Gescard, Cooper and the other members of their team.
Isnora claimed he thought Guzman was reaching for a gun,
only there was no gun. Diallo was reaching for his
wallet. Stansburry was merely opening the door.
The people who are trained made a mistake. The civilians
who are not trained ended up dead.
Throughout the black and Latino neighborhoods of this
city, the anguish has been mounting for years from these
That anguish is made far worse by a court system that
always seems to devise some legal wording or excuse to
declare there was no crime.
Now everyone is speculating about violence or rioting.
Just another way of blaming the victim.
The greatest threat of all is loss of faith in our
In some parts of this city, many are more convinced than
ever that there is one law for them and another for the
At least with the Knicks, we can hope the nightmare will
end next season.
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