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Amadou Diallo/NYPD Trial: 2000

"every Police Officer's Nightmare"

Opening for the prosecution on February 2, Bronx Assistant District Attorney Eric Warner stated, "We will prove this man was cornered and killed in the vestibule of his home." Officer Carroll's defense attorney Bennett Epstein's opening countered that Diallo had ignored police orders to halt and that the police had opened fire, believing Diallo had a gun. "Mr. Diallo," he said, "had taken the officers into the no-man's land that is every police officer's nightmare. Had Mr. Diallo stopped to answer the officer's questions, the whole thing would have ended peaceably."

The bullets were introduced as evidence. Coroner Joseph Cohen described the wounds that had been inflicted after the victim had been brought down by a bullet through his aorta. Detective Joseph Flannino testified that the vestibule was well lit enough for him to do his work at the crime scene. Using photos that, on the contrary, showed how dark the area was, the defense argued how easy it was for the officers to have mistaken Diallo's black wallet for a gun. A 22-year-old neighbor of Diallo's, Debbie Rivera, testified that she had heard a momentary pause in the volley of 41 shots, supporting the prosecution's claim that the police had had time to see that Diallo was unarmed and had briefly stopped shooting.

An embarrassing moment for the defense came when Wheeler Avenue resident Schrrie Elliott testified that she had seen the shooting from across the street. (She later told television interviewers she had heard one of the cops shout "Gun!" If true, this supported the officers' position that they thought the victim had been armed.) On the witness stand, however, she said she couldn't be sure who had shouted—it could have been Diallo. Cross-examined by prosecutor Donald Levin, she said Diallo had had his back to the officers as they approached, and she hadn't heard anyone yell "stop" or "freeze" or "show your hands." Someone, she couldn't be sure who, yelled, "Gun!" and the firing started. The next day, shown her TV interviews where she described one of the officers yelling "Gun!" she admitted her story had changed. The jury was not present for this disclosure, having previously been excused. In the meantime, an investigation disclosed that she had a rap sheet that included an arrest and conviction for the possession and sale of drugs. The next time she was put on the witness stand, the defense asked the judge to declare her a hostile witness, then proceeded to cross-examined her. At this time she changed her story yet again, saying one of the officers had, indeed, shouted "Gun!"

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentAmadou Diallo/NYPD Trial: 2000 - Unarmed And Law Abiding, "every Police Officer's Nightmare", "gun! He's Got A Gun!"