Sean Bell: Kangaroo Grand Jury

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[I WRITE WHAT I LIKE] Michael Palladino’s private meeting with Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown, on December 4, concerning the Sean Bell case was telling in its non-reaction from Black leaders.

Palladino heads the Detective Endowment Association (DEA), which represents the detectives involved in the fifty-shot fusillade killing Bell and critically wounding his companions, Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman, on November 25. Bell died immediately in Queens.

Palladino’s contact with the District Attorney is akin to a defense lawyer meeting secretly with a jury. The DEA is only empowered to engage in collective  bargaining over the terms and conditions of employment. It is unethical, given the appearance of impropriety, for the DEA to bargain with the district attorney’s office over the propriety of indicting state-sponsored terrorists in the Sean Bell case.

The power to indict falls within the authority of a grand jury, which is an investigatory body with subpoena power. The district attorney is only its legal advisor. Plea bargaining is appropriate subsequent to an indictment. Otherwise, it is an obstruction of justice and it impairs the work of the grand jury.

Instead, Brown’s office and the local police department are involved in unauthorized criminal investigations. The fruits of investigations by the prosecutor’s office and the police will poison any prospective grand jury. Obviously, the district attorney’s office is engaged in creating a perjury trap for prospective witnesses.

These witnesses will become parrots of the NYPD’s version of the shooting or, in the alternative, they will face perjury charges. This is the risk of speaking outside a grand jury. The witness must have a photographic memory and must give identical testimony to the grand jury. Any inconsistency gives the police or a prosecutor the opportunity to testify against a witness.

Palladino’s unequivocal announcement on the city’s public radio station, that the cops involved in the shooting were off the hook, is not surprising. This announcement was made on December 20. It had to have come from the lips of a reliable source in the district attorney’s office.

Instead of Palladino making an announcement on December 20 that the cops were off the hook, the prosecutor’s office should have already secured murder and attempted murder indictments. The medical examiner’s office has already ascertained that the fatal shooting of Sean Bell was a homicide. The identity of the shooters was known on November 25.

This evidence is sufficient to support murder and attempted murder indictments. The grand jury is not obligated to hear the full story. Once a prima facie case has been made, the grand jury may indict the five cops. These cops should already be behind bars or facing restrictions on their liberties.

If the shootings were, allegedly, justified, this testimony should be given to a petit jury at trial. This inference stems from the legal rule that a suspect is not entitled to have the grand jury receive exculpatory evidence. The public, and not the grand jury, is required to hear any claim of self-defense.

A grand jury is a secret proceeding designed to conduct criminal investigations and not to reach judicial conclusions on the merits. It is not even a summary proceeding that is designed to make a swift judicial determination. Brown is putting the cart before the horse and is promoting a travesty of justice.

Similarly, issues like a fourth man near the van or the presence of a gun are simply red herrings before a grand jury. A grand jury plays a limited role in the legal process. Character evidence, like the prior arrests of a victim, is also irrelevant to a grand jury investigation and can never be used at trial against the victim.

When a grand jury investigation is delayed, it gives law enforcement agents, through the media, an opportunity to poison a grand jury pool. Given this unwarranted delay, the selection and questioning of prospective grand jury members should be made in public. Otherwise, 23 members of the Ku Klux Klan will give Palladino his wish.

The legal precedent for Sean Bell’s investigation is the Tawana Brawley investigation. The grand jury was selected in public from a pool of 126 prospective grand jurors. There were three Blacks in the pool and two were selected for the grand jury.

Robert Abrams, the special prosecutor, questioned most of the 74 potential grand jurors on February 29, 1988. Public questioning of the potential grand jurors in Bell is necessary to ensure that the grand jury represents the racial makeup of Queens. Supreme Court Justice Angelo Ingrassia gave public legal instructions to the Dutchess County grand jury.

At this time, Abrams was confident that the suspect status of Assistant District Attorney Steven Pagones of Dutchess County would never be made public. A month earlier, Dutchess County Court Judge Judith Hillery had written Gov. Mario Cuomo a confidential letter fingering Pagones as a suspect. She also ruled that this letter had to remain confidential.

New York went ballistic when I publicly fingered Pagones on March 13, 1988. This unexpected exposure made me a grand jury target. Pagones was off the hook. Dutchess County District Attorney William Grady had convened an earlier grand jury in January 1988 to create a grand jury trap for the Brawley family. This earlier grand jury had been selected secretly.

Black leaders have been quick to condemn Tawana Brawley while supporting the position of Gov. Eliot Spitzer that the Brawley file must remain secret. They fail to perceive the contradiction of a hoax remaining secret. The Brawley family wants a disclosure of the file. Glenda Brawley, Tawana’s mother, had to flee the state in 1988.

Many of the demands that were met in the Brawley case should now be made and met in the Sean Bell case, including a special prosecutor, a public grand jury and a grand jury report. In 1988, Gov. Cuomo was a foe of mine. Spitzer is supposed to be a friend of Black voters. It is time for him to put up or shut up.

If these demands are made to Gov. Spitzer and are not met by January 15, 2007, it should be clear that Palladino also has Black leaders in his back pocket. It should also be clear that Blacks are engaged in plantation politics. Black people elect white politicians who only remember their Black constituents on MLK Jr. holiday and only then to benefit whites politically.
Blacks must learn to connect the dots and think outside the box. When Black leaders and activists fled Tawana Brawley and called for racial harmony, rather than racial justice, after the acquittals in the assassination of Amadou Diallo, whites have no reason to fear that the response from Blacks in the assassination of Sean Bell would be any different. In addition, all Black selected officials in Queens are supporting Brown’s re-election bid in 2007.

In fact, Black leaders traded justice for crumbs on the November 25 shooting, after Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, on November 27, that the shooting appeared to be a case of excessive force. Whites know how to tell Black leaders to trust them. This means not to upset the applecart.

This is now a case of the police policing themselves while the media “ Black and white “ is engaged in public relations gimmicks to assist these Black leaders who are steering the Black masses to slaughter. We are only confirming to whites our own gullibility and encouraging more Sean Bell assassinations amid fusillades of bullets.

To secure justice for Bell et al., Blacks must go backwards before they move forward. Prior injustices, like Brawley and Diallo, must be addressed forthwith. This is the meaning of Sankofa. It also falls within the purview of retrospective law.
In the Brawley case, it would simply be a demand on the state attorney general to release the contents of the investigatory files and let the chips fall where they may. If Black leaders are afraid to demand a disclosure of these files, it should tell you everything you need to know about their courage.

Stated another way, the unofficial investigation into the shootings of Sean Bell et al. is over. A different stroke for New Orleans, however. Indictments for murder and attempted murder were announced on December 28 against seven New Orleans police officers. The lives of Blacks have greater value in New Orleans.

Six unarmed persons were shot six days after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Crescent City. Two of those persons died. The facts in New Orleans were similar to those in the Queens shooting. Race was the key factor in both shootings and the legal system is expected to protect, without question, the violent perpetrators acting under color of law.

An effort is afoot to put the final nail in my legal coffin and to stop effective advocacy by Black lawyers. I need your support immediately to fight off impending disbarment. Please send any expression of support to UAM Legal Defense Fund, c/o Alton H. Maddox, Jr., 16 Court Street, Ste. 1901, Brooklyn, NY 11241. The struggle must continue. Asante sana.

See: Blueprint to End Police Terrorism at

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