The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Murdered by 50 Bullets:
A System without Justice

Apr 28, 2008

A New York judge acquitted three cops of the murder of Sean Bell. Bell, a young black man, was killed in November 2006.

Bell and his friends were leaving a nightclub the night before his wedding. The three cops were there, in plain clothes. With guns drawn, they approached the car with Bell’s party. The driver believed it was a holdup and tried to drive away. The three cops fired 50 shots into the car, killing Sean Bell, wounding his friends.

One of the cops, Michael Oliver, fired 31 times. He ran out of ammunition in the middle of the shooting, reloaded his gun, and emptied another magazine into the car.

From beginning to end, the actual trial was a pre-arranged kangaroo court–of the victim! The prosecution–that is, the city lawyers supposedly representing Bell and his family–entered only the cops’ earlier grand jury testimony into the trial record, letting them avoid taking the stand. So they didn’t face cross examination. The prosecution protected the cops being prosecuted!

This judge declared that the cops’ stories were consistent while there were “inconsistencies” in the witnesses’ reports! Of course!

In the first place, it’s hard to recall every little thing while being shot at 50 times in a surprise ambush!

Second, while the shooting’s survivors and witnesses had been required to give statements immediately after the shooting, the cops were given weeks to get their stories together.

Finally, the cops avoided taking the stand and so risked no exposure of their own “inconsistencies!”

The judge also said he found the prosecution witnesses less believable because they had interests in the outcome of a lawsuit against the city. As if the cops didn’t have big “interests” in the outcome as well. As if the city didn’t have “interests” in the outcome–like avoiding a big wrongful-death settlement!

Many people have drawn the natural comparison of Sean Bell’s murder to the 1999 murder of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant shot 41 times by the New York police–while reaching for his wallet. The New York Times said “Anger and disappointment are understandable, but New York’s leadership has changed....”

Changed? Just exactly what has changed, when the cops can do this? And when the judge and the prosecutors scheme together to get the cops off scot-free? No, nothing has changed, not one iota. There is no justice for ordinary people in the courts–as many black people have known for a long time.

In this racist and class system, trials are always and only a show. Unless an angry community writes them a new script.