Cases Against Officers Who Shoot Are Difficult to Sustain


In cases like that of Sean Bell, the unarmed New York City man who was killed on his wedding day when officers fired 50 shots into his car, it is very difficult to convince a grand jury or a trial jury that police officers went too far, says the New York Times. In many such cases, with tensions high, the facts and legal fine points are difficult to isolate from a much larger context. An associate of Queens District Attorney Richard Brown noted “the racial tension that still exists in the city” and the “the mistrust in the minority community. It's cops that are faced with danger every day and have to react in seconds. It's safe to say, if they're wrong, somebody dies.”

Some critics have called for an independent prosecutor, saying that a district attorney should not be investigating a police department he regularly deals with. Brown replied that calls for a special prosecutor “are neither helpful nor productive – nor are they in any respect justified.” The recent history in police-shooting cases is mixed. In the case of Amadou Diallo, fired on 41 times by the police as he stood in a vestibule in 1999, four officers were acquitted of various charges. In the case of Patrick Dorismond, killed in 2000 during a scuffle with an undercover narcotics detective who said he thought the man was a drug dealer, a grand jury declined to indict.


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