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Five questions for CNN's Sunny Hostin

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  • Witnesses' combative remarks may have affected judge's decision, analyst says
  • CNN analyst: Judge Arthur Cooperman has reputation for being fair
  • Law enforcement sources tell analyst that "this is a terrible case for everyone"
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Editor's note: Following the acquittal of three New York police officers in the killing of Sean Bell, CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin answers five questions about the verdict, the judge, the witnesses and the reaction of police officers.

(CNN) -- Q: Was it the best decision by the defense to waive a jury trial and have a judge decide this?

HOSTIN: No question. It is unusual for a case like this to go in front of a judge instead of a jury. But this was an emotional case, it received a lot of media coverage and the defense requested a bench trial. So the judge was acting not only as a judge but also as a juror in determining the facts of the case.

Q: In announcing the verdict, the judge said he didn't believe some of the witnesses. Was that the bottom line?

HOSTIN: When the judge said, in essence, "I was looking at the demeanor of a witness and I didn't believe it," that's a credibility determination a judge has to make. ... When I reviewed Joseph Guzman's testimony, he was combative. He said things to the questioning attorney like: "This should happen to your family." ... So a judge, acting as the trier of fact, is going to look at that sort of thing -- and also prior history, prior convictions -- and decide, "Do I believe him?" Video Watch Hostin discuss the verdict »

Q: Did the prosecution prepare the witnesses for what was a serious, somber proceeding?

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HOSTIN: They absolutely prepared their witnesses. I'm sure that the prosecutors met with witnesses not once, not twice, but probably upwards of five to 10 times. But you never know how a witness is going to react on the witness stand. ... You don't know what the cross-examination is going to be like. And you don't know how a witness is going to react to that examination.

Q: What do we know about Judge Arthur Cooperman?

HOSTIN: He's an older judge, experienced. He's been around before, and this is not his first high-profile police brutality case. He held against the police in one case. So this is a judge who has a good reputation for being fair, right down the line.

Q: We know there's been a lot of community outrage at the verdict. What's been the reaction of those you've spoken to in the law enforcement community?

HOSTIN: Most in the law enforcement community believe that the officers were justified in firing. I've been told that everything that evolved here seemed to be within normal police procedure. But the consensus in the law enforcement community is that this is a terrible case for everyone. ...


I've been on [my] Blackberry with a former first-grade Queens detective, and he said, "This thing probably happened in less than two minutes. I could fire off my weapon in a case like this in 20 to 30 seconds."

These are judgments that are made for better or for worse, very quickly. This is not a good outcome for anybody. These officers' lives are changed forever. This is a terrible case for everyone. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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