I had already left my home on Friday, by the time the Sean Bell verdict dropped. So I took the weekend to absorb the shock, and to try to understand how this verdict could possibly be handed down. I’m still at a loss.
My immediate emotional response to the news that the three accused officers were acquitted in the Sean Bell shooting case was outrage, anger, and that sickening feeling you get when justice has been perverted. My second response was jaded disgust. Surprise didn’t even occur to me — sadly, I would have been truly, happily surprised if the officers who fired 50 shots at an unarmed man were actually sentenced for their violent crime. But this sentence was just more of the same ol, same ol — same as Amadou Diallo, same as Ousmane Zongo, Johnny Gammage in Pittsburgh, and even Jean Charles de Meneze in London. When police officers gun down unarmed victims, it seems that the course of justice doesn’t run smooth and straight by any means.
Would a trial by jury have resulted in a different outcome for the Bell family? Perhaps — a jury of Sean Bell’s peers would probably be more than familiar with the NYPD’s reputation of racial profiling. But the defendants opted for a judge, rather than a jury. And lo and behold, that judge found reasons to question the witnesses’ accounts — “He said some prosecution witnesses contradicted themselves, and he cited prior convictions and incarcerations of witnesses,” that Concrete Loop article reveals. (note — the gif image at the top of this post also came from Concrete Loop).
They say that Detective Michael Oliver wept at the defense table. I wonder if those were guilty tears — after all, he did fire his weapon 31 times at the unarmed husband-to-be — or if they were simply tears of relief that he wasn’t going to be sent to jail for his actions.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered a statement afterwards — “”An innocent man lost his life, a bride lost her groom, two daughters lost their father, and a mother and a father lost their son. No verdict could ever end the grief that those who knew and loved Sean Bell suffer… America is a nation of laws, and though not everyone will agree with the verdicts and opinions issued by the courts, we accept their authority.”
My heart goes out to Nicole Paultre Bell and the rest of the Bell family. I can’t even imagine their pain, the emptiness they might feel inside. Rest in peace, Sean. 23 is too young to die under any circumstances, and these are especially heinous and tragic. I hope that somewhere down the line real justice is served, at the inevitable trials and civil suits to come. And there better be recompense somewhere – especially since someone working at the police union in Manhattan thought the verdict was FUNNY enough to make a PRANK PHONE CALL to Nicole Bell. (hat tip to Love is Dope for letting me know about THAT fresh outrage).
How do you bellas and fellas living in New York feel about this verdict, now that the weekend has passed? Do you still feel simmering anger in the pit of your stomach, or is it more like grim acceptance?