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Jury May Get Diallo Case Today

February 23, 2000

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ Amadou Diallo was killed on his Bronx doorstep because police made a snap judgment that the unarmed black immigrant was a suspect lurking in a bad neighborhood, a prosecutor said as the trial neared an end.

Diallo ``was being looked at in a way that doomed him from the start,″ prosecutor Eric Warner said Tuesday during closing arguments in the officers’ murder trial.

The jury was expected to get the racially charged case today. But first, they received detailed instructions from the judge, which began at midmorning and continued into the afternoon.

The officers, all of them white, were members of a roving unit of plainclothes officers which has been accused of stopping and frisking young black men without cause. The shooting of Diallo, a 22-year-old immigrant from the West African nation of Guinea, sparked so much pretrial publicity and protest that an appeals court moved the case to Albany.

The defense has argued that the officers were acting in self-defense, believing Diallo had a weapon, and Warner stopped short of accusing the officers of racism.

But he repeated claims that they accosted Diallo in a 5-by-7-foot vestibule at 12:40 a.m. on Feb. 4, 1999, without warning or justification before firing 41 bullets. The victim was hit 19 times.

Warner accused the officers of jumping to false conclusions, and of failing to back off despite signs that Diallo was a ``decent man″ who lived on a quiet, working-class street.

Warner cited Officer Sean Carroll’s testimony that he wanted to stop Diallo on a ``hunch″ that he might be a wanted rapist or robber. Carroll and Edward McMellon both fired 16 shots, Kenneth Boss five and Richard Murphy four after the victim pulled a black object out of his pocket. It turned out to be a wallet.

The shooting ``wasn’t a mistake,″ said Warner, holding the wallet up for the jury. ``It was a terrible series of conscious decisions.″

The defense countered that Diallo gave the defendants no choice by ignoring repeated orders to stop for questioning and making a sudden move for what they believed was a small black pistol.

Carroll’s attorney, John Patten, argued the officers had to make a split-second decision to defend themselves. The initial bullets ricocheted around the vestibule, making them think they were in a firefight.

``They made a mistake,″ he said. ``But they honestly believed this guy was shooting at them.″

The closing arguments came after nine days of testimony in the trial of Carroll, 37, McMellon, 27, Boss, 28, and Murphy, 27. The defendants have pleaded innocent to second-degree murder.

If convicted of murder, the officers face a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison. However, Justice Joseph Teresi ruled last week that jurors could consider lesser charges such as second-degree manslaughter, which has a minimum sentence of probation.

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