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Sharpton Calls Acquittals in Sean Bell Case An "Abortion of Justice"

Reverend Al Sharpton minced no words in denouncing today's ruling by Justice Arthur Cooperman acquitting three detectives in the fatal shooting of Sean Bell outside a strip club a few hours before his wedding, terming the verdict an abortion of justice.  Said Sharpton:

"What we saw in court today was not a miscarriage of justice,” he said. “Justice didn’t miscarry. This was an abortion of justice. Abortions are intended. Miscarriage could be you couldn’t hold the baby justice, you couldn’t take care of baby or it was an accident. But this was no accident.

Sharpton also criticized the judge for apparently considering the criminal background of some of its victims, asserting, "Even people with criminal backgrounds have civil rights.”

But if you agree with Sharpton that the verdict was wrong, is the judge alone to blame> Or do prosecutors bear responsibility for botching the case?  In this detailed account in  Bloomberg, the judge criticized the prosecutor's case, finding that witnesses gave contradictory accounts, and that one prosecution witness had recanted. The Village Voice referenced these criticisms of the prosecutors' strategy:

In "The Sean Bell Curveball For Cops on Trial," Sean Gardiner reported that many legal observers were puzzled by some of the strategies employed by prosecutors working for Queens DA Richard Brown.  A week into the trial of three cops in the Sean Bell case, the prosecutors' theory that two of the cops were "acting in concert" when the bridegroom was gunned down in a hail of police bullets is striking a sour note with some observers.

For Judge Arthur Cooperman, who's hearing the case without a jury, to convict on the top counts of first- and second-degree manslaughter, he'd have to believe "that they planned it and they all had the same mind-set," says veteran defense attorney Marvyn Kornberg. "And that's ludicrous."  If anything, the prosecutors undercut their own theory during the first week of the trial by stressing the lack of planning by the accused officers' unit on the night of the shooting and the chaos that followed."

So, criminal experts: What's your take in the Sean Bell case?  Abortion of justice, as Sharpton and others claim?  Botched delivery by the prosecutors?  A biased judge?  Or great work by the defense team and officers who deserved an acquittal?  Send your comments below.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on April 25, 2008 at 03:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

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