Diallo Judge OKs TV Testimony
Feb. 10, 2000
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ The jury in the Amadou Diallo murder case will be allowed to see television interviews in which a woman says she heard one of the accused patrolmen shout ``Gun!'' just before the shooting.
State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi ruled today that a videotape containing portions of two interviews with Schrrie Elliott was a ``fair and accurate'' representation of what she said to WNBC-TV shortly after Diallo's death a year ago and again last week.
Elliott testified Wednesday that she heard someone yell ``Gun!'' before the defendants, four white police officers, fired 41 bullets into the vestibule of Diallo's apartment building at 12:40 a.m. on Feb. 4, 1999.
She said in court that she was not certain who yelled the warning, but the videotape shows her saying it was one of the officers. The defense says Officer Sean Carroll shouted out, proving he thought Diallo was a threat. He and the three other officers are charged with murder in the unarmed immigrant's death.
One of the interviews shows Elliott only in silhouette. She alleged the officers ``just went crazy.''
One officer ``said `gun' and that was it,'' she said. ``They just did what they did.'' She also suggested most of the gunfire occurred while Diallo was upright.
Attorneys for the officers say Elliott has changed her account of the shooting since last year. The lawyers were expected to confront her with the alleged contradictions today.
Defense lawyers called her to testify Wednesday, but on cross-examination, she appeared to catch them off guard. Elliott said that, while walking home, she saw four plainclothes officers jump out of a car with their guns drawn, form a semi-circle on the sidewalk outside Diallo's door and open fire.
``And they continued shooting while (Diallo) was down?'' prosecutor Donald Levin asked on cross-examination.
``Yes,'' replied Elliott, breaking into tears.
The testimony prompted defense lawyers to ask Teresi to declare Elliott an adverse witness, allowing them to cross-examine her today.
Elliott was the first eyewitness to testify at the murder trial of Carroll, 36, Kenneth Boss, 28, Edward McMellon, 27, and Richard Murphy, 27. Earlier, witnesses for the prosecution testified only about what they heard.
Elliott had refused to speak with the defense before the trial, and the attorneys said Wednesday that all they knew about her was contained in the TV interview. Prosecutors were not required to provide the defense with Elliott's grand jury testimony because she was not called as a prosecution witness.
The defense claims the officers _ in a search for dangerous criminals _ saw Diallo as a threat because he refused orders to stop, then pulled out a black wallet that appeared to be a gun. The attorneys also say the officers' high-powered pistols fired fast enough for Diallo to stay on his feet, possibly up against a wall, throughout the shooting. Nineteen bullets hit Diallo.
The defendants have pleaded innocent to charges they murdered the West African immigrant by shooting him without cause or warning. If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison.
The case sparked enough pretrial publicity and protest over police treatment of minorities that an appeals court moved it to Albany.
The officers themselves are expected to testify on Monday.