Sean Bell, No Justice – Now What?

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Fifty-plus bullets fired at human beings who have no weapons of their own can only be looked upon as murder and attempted murder – no matter who the shooters are, and just because you miss the intended target, bad aim should not get you off the hook.

[On The Spot]

It is sad to say, a lot of us were not surprised with State Supreme Court Judge Arthur J. Cooperman’s verdict.

You have to ask yourself again, what happened to justice?

Let’s say we are watching a basketball championship game and the player on team red takes the first shot, and misses. No one remembers that miss. Now there only three seconds left to play the game and team red is down by one point and has the ball for the last shot.

The player shoots and misses and they lose the game. Everyone remembers the last shot and blames the loss on the last shooter. This may be a bad scenario, so go get your own.

The verdict was set to fail when the secret Grand Jury was unable to get murder indictments on each of the five undercover cops who discharged their issued weapon – and did not hold two of them responsible for the first bullet exiting their firearm at all.

No matter what club Sean Bell, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield were coming from that morning, it is a fact the crime scene was invented from start to finish on Liverpool Street between 94th and 95th Street; in Southeast Queens.

These undercover cops, Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora, Marc Cooper, Michael Carey, Paul Headley, Hispolito Sanchez, Lt. Gary Napoli and two female officers, knew nothing about these three men before deciding to unleash a barrage of bullets into the vehicle they were in.

Fifty-plus bullets fired at human beings who have no weapons of their own can only be looked upon as murder and attempted murder – no matter who the shooters are, and just because you miss the intended target, bad aim should not get you off the hook.

Are we to believe, someone said, “Go get my gun,” and these undercover cops were scared and in their mind a crime was going to happen?

What if these victims had turned out to be off duty Court Officers or Correction Officers or Armed Security Guards or armored carriers’ guards? What if they were the sons of NYPD members, or politicians or my sons or your sons? Does it matter?

Hearing words does not give any law enforcement person the authority to shoot, to reload, and shoot again.

It’s been a while since I lost respect for the criminal justice system. I do not have to hang out in Judge Cooperman’s neighborhood to question him about the verdict, because it is greater than he.

This verdict was no different from the thousands of verdicts that are cast each week. We have turned away from a wicked system that has been reintroducing slavery across this country, since the so called, “Emancipation Proclamation.”

In part, Judge Cooperman writes in his verdict, “…prior inconsistent statements, inconsistencies in testimony among prosecution witnesses, the renunciation of prior statements, criminal convictions, the interest of some witnesses in the outcome of the case, the demeanor on the witness stand of other witnesses and the motive witnesses may have had to lie….”

Somewhere I read, impartiality “implies that judges must not harbor preconceptions about the matter put before them and that they must not act in ways that promote the interests of one of the parties.” [Karttune v. Finland, (387/1989), 23 October 1992, Report of the HRC, vol. ll, (A/48/40), 1993, at 120, para. 7.2]

For Judge Cooperman to believe the defendants’ account of the incident, when in fact they could not even remember firing their weapon minutes after the shooting is preposterous. According to Cooperman, “… the people’s ability to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and had the effect of eviscerating the credibility of those prosecution witnesses. And, at times, the testimony just didn’t make sense….”

What about the facts and the killing?

How could these witnesses’ testimonies “make sense,” out of a crime that did not make sense from the beginning? There was no gun found at the scene. How did a bullet go 80 feet in the air? Why was 50 plus bullets fired at a moving vehicle? Did any of the undercover cops have more than two drinks with alcohol? Did the undercover cops who had, “two drinks,” shoot their weapon? Who can make sense of this?

Will we ever know how Judge Cooperman came to his decision?

“This court must determine what the facts are, apply those facts to the applicable law, and render a verdict,” Cooperman writes. But, what is applicable law? What happened to the penal law, which these defendants were charged under? What jurisdiction was Judge Cooperman operating under? Did Bell, Guzman and Benefield have standing under that jurisdiction?

In the case of Rosser-El v. United States, which alleges – “2/3 of the members of the House of Representatives present to vote did not approve the proposed 14th Amendment on June 13, 1866. Rather, the case alleges that the proposal was three votes short of approval. As a result, the case alleges that the 14th Amendment is not valid, thus meaning blacks do not truly have U.S. citizenship or equal protection under federal law,” and state law as well.

State Supreme Court Judge Arthur J. Cooperman made it very clear to the African-American community not to look or expect any justice in his court. Cooperman went as far to explain his reasoning before the verdict. In fact, verdicts such as his have been a plague on the African American community since slavery.

“Accordingly, the court finds each defendant not guilty,” Judge Cooperman says in his verdict. Many have responded to the verdict on the street. Here is a comment I heard upon stepping out of the court house: “Those murderers got away with murder. One cop shot 31 times and walked; this is bullshit; total bullshit.”

Cooperman prejudged each witness who came before him to tell what they knew and remembered the best way they could. Clearly, Cooperman’s verdict appeared to be perceived way before April 25th.

Some of us want to believe the New York State Criminal Justice System is really blind. To understand what happened in the Sean Bell, Joseph Guzman, and Trent Benefield case; and other cases across this country, you have to first read the 1991 “New York State Judicial Commission On Minorities Report.”

The long wait to hear a verdict that can be viewed as criminal and reckless, raises some serious Human Rights and Constitutional issues, which resulted in civil rights leaders and a few politicians calling on the federal government to review Judge Cooperman’s verdict in the interest of justice.


Contact Winkfield for his consideration regarding covering your own story: (347) 632-2272 By mail: On The Spot, Post Office Box 230149, Queens County 11423; Email: or; call (212) 481-7745. Together we can get the justice everyone just talks about.

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