Bell Venue Switch Denied

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[New York News]

A motion for a change in venue by lawyers defending police officers accused in the Sean Bell killing case has been rejected, The Black Star News has learned.

"Today's decision reflects that which we said all along, that a fair and impartial jury can be selected from among the 2.3 million residents of Queens County," said Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown.


The trial will remain in Queens County, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court ruled.

Bell was killed in a barrage of possibly more than 50 bullets fired by police while in his car about 14 months ago after he left a bachelor party at a Queens nightclub. He was to be married later that day. Two of his friends Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman were seriously wounded.

Rev. Al Sharpton, who has been a vocal advocate for the Bell family, in a statement said, "The decision made by the Appellate Court to deny a venue change in the upcoming trial on the killing of Sean Bell is a victory for the people in the state of New York and specifically in the county of Queens.”

Sharpton referred to the 1999 case in which an immigrant from Guinea, Amadou Diallo was killed in a hail of 41 shots by police in the Bronx, only to see the case shifted to Albany, where the officers were acquitted, and added, “Though this does not give an advantage or disadvantage for any of the involved parties, it does take the stain of an unfair and uneven playing field from at least the geographic questions that surround these trials.”


Police officers in the Diallo case claimed they thought he was reaching for a gun; Diallo was unarmed, as was Sean Bell in the Queens shooting. Bell's killing sparked a series of angry protest marches by ordinary New Yorkers who denounced the use of excessive use of force by police, especially against Black males.

“There wasn’t any real evidence in our view for a need for a change in the venue,” added Michael Hardy, one of the attorneys representing Nicole Paultre Bell, Bell's fiancee.

Public outcry following the Bell killing forced the New York police department to institute sobriety tests for police officers arfter such incidents. Some of the police, who had been undercover at the club where Bell had his bachelor party had comsumed alcohol.

The trial is slated to begin February 4th on the eve of Super Tuesday, when votes will be cast in the presidential primaries in several states including New York. 

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