50-Shot Cops Duck Jury Trial in Sean Bell Case

Erin Thompson Feb 2, 2008

More than a year after Sean Bell was killed by a barrage of police bullets on the night before his wedding, the chance for justice in his case remain uncertain. After a 10-minute hearing on Jan. 25, State Supreme Court Judge Arthur Cooperman agreed to a request by the three police officers indicted in Bell’s shooting to hold a bench trial in their case, sparing them from having to face a jury trial. The decision came just two days after an appeals court turned down a request by defense lawyers to move the trial outside of New York City.

“Now that their motion to change the venue has been denied, they do not want to face a jury of their peers. We are prepared, though, to proceed in any case with our pursuit of justice,” Bell family advocate Rev. Al Sharpton told the New York Daily News. Bell, a 23-year-old African American, was killed outside a Queens nightclub on Nov. 25, 2006, when five undercover police detectives fired a total of 50 shots at him and two of his friends, who were both seriously wounded. All three men were unarmed. Three of the five police officers — Michael Oliver, Gescard F. Isnora and Marc Cooper — were indicted. Oliver and Isnora face manslaughter charges while Cooper faces a lesser charge of reckless endangerment. Bell’s fiancée, Nicole Paultre Bell, is also pursuing a civil lawsuit against the officers.

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—Erin Thompson

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