Nicole Paultre Bell said the verdict made her feel her fiance had been killed a second time.
I keep looking for a response that will make me feel less hunted in my home, less at risk.
Riding the subway yesterday and looking across the aisle at a middle-aged black man sitting next to a young black woman, sitting next to an elderly black man sitting next to an elderly black woman and thinking yes, it could have been any one of us, could still be any one of us. Hearing a police officer at another bag check in Grand Central ask a young woman if he could search her backpack and thinking sure, you can do what you like, apparently you can even shoot me fifty times and get away with it.
Clearly my sorrow is festering.
Norman Siegel of the ACLU and State Senator Eric Adams are calling for the creation of a state special prosecutor for situations like this. (Adams is a former NYPD officer, one of the founders of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care.) They say that prosecutors have trouble mounting strong cases in these circumstances because they work so closely with the police and rely on the police for every other case they prosecute — to investigate crimes, to get access to witnesses, etc. Siegel and Adams say that when DAs have to prosecute cops, it means ‘turning on’ their partners.
The Urban League is pushing for a federal civil rights case against the officers.
According to Judge Cooperman, the prosecutors didn’t present enough evidence for convictions. He said witness testimony was inconsitent. Meanwhile police testimony was inconsistent and contraditory, and he had no problem believing the version of the story that would lead to acquittal.
Speaking specifically of Sean Bell’s friends — the two men in the car with Bell, the two men who were also shot, one of whom still has four bullets in his body — Judge Copperman said their “demeanor” and “rap sheets” had the effect of “eviscerating their credibility.” He had trouble with Guzman and Benefield’s ‘demeanor’ during the trial? Really? Because they were maybe angry or upset on the stand or distrustful of the justice system in light of previous cases and their own experiences with the police up to and including the night they were shot and their friend was killed? Could any of that have contributed to their demeanor? (Or maybe the judge was influenced by the way Joseph Guzman was described over and over again: a ‘hulking, giant of a man.’ Spectre of Bigger Thomas, anyone?) Does any of that mean their accounts of what happened had less value, less veracity than the officers? And their ‘rap sheets’ are a mark against them when they are the victims? Because they had committed crimes in the past, their descriptions of the shooting weren’t credible? Or maybe the fact that they had rap sheets means that the officers — who had no idea who any of the men were before the shooting — were justified in shooting because, you know, now we can see that the victims had criminal histories? I remember in the early days after the shooting, one of the first things we were told was that Guzman and Benefield had had prior run-ins with the law. As if that made it all ok, as if that would make us all sit down and say, “Oh, well then no wonder you shot them.”
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
Oh, it’s still not getting me anywhere. The pain in my chest doesn’t lessen. It’s been good for me to write all of this over the last couple of days, to ‘say it out loud,’ as it were. I’ve still got a lot of figuring out to do, but I still need to find the thing to do to help me take back some power.