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Larry King Live
New York City Cops Acquitted in Shooting Death of Amadou DialloAired February 25, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, GUEST HOST: Tonight, not-guilty verdicts in a racially charged case. Four New York City cops are acquitted in the shooting death of African immigrant Amadou Diallo. The victim's mother, Kadiatou Diallo, joins us from Albany, New York. In New York, New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir. In Charleston, South Carolina, attorney and bestselling author Alan Dershowitz.
All of that and more next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening. I am Greta Van Susteren, sitting in tonight for Larry King.
We're going to go to Albany, New York, where we have standing by Mrs. Diallo, the mother of Amadou Diallo, who was killed about a year ago in a trial today resulting in the acquittal of four police officers.
Mrs. Diallo, thank you very much for joining us this evening on obviously a very difficult evening. First of all, why did this happen to your son?
KADIATOU DIALLO, AMADOU DIALLO'S MOTHER: Well, my first question when I -- am here, I say why? Because my son hadn't done nothing wrong, he had no arm, and he was standing in his own doorway, in his own privacy. That's my question, why? Until now, I have no answer.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mrs. Diallo, was the trial of these four police officers, in your mind, fair?
DIALLO: I really -- I can speak in the name of my son Amadou. The trial was not fair to my son, because if they said they are not guilty for every account, then I am going to say, what happened? What of the deceased they left Amadou, who did nothing wrong, who was innocent? So this is my question, and I think something need to be done about this.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you think it is, Mrs. Diallo, that the four police officers were found not guilty?
DIALLO: Well, I have no experience in the justice system, although I said I have faith. I want the justice system to prevail, and I think many people in the Bronx tonight feel the same thing. Justice was not done here, because I don't see how hay they can blame the disease still, after his death, to say that it was his fault that he got killed.
VAN SUSTEREN: The shooting occurred in the Bronx. The trial occurred in Albany. Do you think it was wrong to have the trial in Albany?
DIALLO: Well, I cannot accuse of wrongdoing. I just want to say that the Bronx County deserves to have this trial take place in the place where Amadou was living and where he died. So trial belongs to the Bronx community, because this could have happened to anyone in the Bronx.
VAN SUSTEREN: When did your son first come to the United States?
DIALLO: He came two years and a half, wanting to pursue life in America. He wanted to save money to go in America college for computer degree. He was a hardworking, very religious and did nothing wrong, always good conduct and polite.
On the night of the 4th of February, they decided, four of the police officers who supposed to preserve people's life in the Bronx community, come out and just consider him to be suspicious. I don't know why this was their decision, and it's wrong. It has to be addressed the way it happened.
VAN SUSTEREN: Had your son ever been in any trouble at all in his life?
DIALLO: Never. He has never had any trouble with somebody, and he can never think of breaking the law. He knows what they call law, and he speaks English. He read and write. He travel. He is well traveled. He was with us all the time until he decide to come to America. And I don't see any justification for this cause.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why did he pick the Bronx to live in?
DIALLO: He picked the Bronx because nothing wrong with the Bronx. The Bronx is a nice block, especially in the Wheeler Avenue. Nothing wrong there. I wish that the jury could have had the chance to go there and see the place. The Bronx is a nice neighborhood, and other Guinean people live there. They have Spanish people, African- American and Latino living there. There's nothing wrong with the Bronx.
VAN SUSTEREN: How did you learn about the shooting?
DIALLO: It is by call, a phone call from our relative in New York. They call me in the morning in Guinea to tell me about the shooting. VAN
SUSTEREN: And how soon after did you come to the United States?
DIALLO: As soon as I can get the first flight to New York. I took Sabina (ph) on Monday.
VAN SUSTEREN: Have you sat through the entire trial? DIALLO: Yes, I was there every day. It was a difficult experience, especially when you are sitting there and listening to everything, and you have to accept everything without any interference. And when you heard them blaming Amadou for what happened to him, this is hard for any mother, I think so.
VAN SUSTEREN: What do you think when the police officers took the witness stand and talked about what happened? What went through your mind?
DIALLO: It was very, very difficult for me. It was the first time for me to listen to what happened to my son. It's like I was going through everything that happened to him, every minute, every second. It was very hard.
VAN SUSTEREN: What about the fact that there were 41 shots fired? Is that what made the difference in this case, that there were so many shots fired?
DIALLO: Well, first of all, no human being deserves to die. Even criminal people deserve to be arrested and be judged before condemned. So if it is one bullet or 41 bullet, it's the same; it's about human beings, it's about life. And those who did that supposed to preserve human life.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mrs. Diallo, can you imagine a situation where police officers don't commit a murder, but make a mistake and a tragedy occurs? Is that at all possible?
DIALLO: Well, I think that could have been asked to those who were doing the same job with, you know, according to the police experience, but I would like to also bring the people's attention to those who can put themselves in the shoes of Amadou, who was approached by those people who were without uniform and in the middle of the night just to come out from their car and approach him. I am not sure if my son knew that he was approached or be -- he was killed by the police. I don't think he knows these people were police people.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mrs. Diallo, there's been a lot of talk in this country about race being a part of this trial. Do you believe that race played any role in this trial?
DIALLO: You mean the trial or what happened to him?
VAN SUSTEREN: Either one, or both.
DIALLO: Definitely. If this city will have to heal, the rest issue should be addressed. Racial profiling will have to stop in every neighborhood. People will have to be judged by not the color of their skin, but by human being.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mrs. Diallo, if you could have a few private moments with any of the officers, is there any of the four officers you'd like to talk to? And is there anything that you'd like to convey to them? DIALLO: First of all, my priority will be to appeal to the justice system, ask them to look into the trial, how the trial was conducted and about the verdict.
I have no personal statement to make to the police people who were involved in the shooting. I just want to achieve justice, and peace and harmony.
VAN SUSTEREN: The first lady of the United States had a comment to make about the verdict today. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: The death of Amadou Diallo was a terrible tragedy, and my heart goes out once again to his parents and family. As a mother, I cannot imagine the grief that they still feel. We must not allow this verdict to divide New Yorkers. We must reach across the lines that too often divide us and the mistrust that stands between us, and join in common resolve to ensure that no tragedy like this ever happens again.
We must honor Amadou Diallo's memory by coming together to build a stronger community. The police must strive for a better understanding of the community they serve, and the community must strive for a better understanding of the incredible risk that the police face in their service on behalf of all of us. We must all work together toward the day when all citizens and all police treat each other with mutual respect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Special thanks to Mrs. Diallo for joining us from Albany, New York on a very tough day.
We're going to take a break. When we come back, we're going to talk the police commissioner from the city of New York, Howard Safir.
Stay with us.
VAN SUSTEREN: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I am Greta Van Susteren, sitting if for Larry this evening.
And we're joined now by Howard Safir, who is the police commissioner in New York.
Thank you for joining us tonight, Commissioner Safir.
Commissioner, what is going to happen to these police officers, if anything, after this acquittal?
HOWARD SAFIR, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, first we're going to review the actual facts of the shooting based on the evidence that was presented at the trial. Now that the criminal proceeding is over, we can start an administrative proceeding. We have a firearms review board. They'll take a look the shooting to see whether or not it was within policy. If they think it was, they'll recommend no charges or specifications against the officers. If they think it was not then they will recommend charge and specifications. Until that times happens, the officers will remain on modified duty, without their weapons or their shields.
But I did want to take this opportunity to express my sincere sympathy to Mrs. Diallo. This tragedy is unimaginable for a parent. Having children myself, no parent should have to bury a child.
VAN SUSTEREN: Commissioner, why did this happen?
SAFIR: Well, I think it was a series of circumstances and a tragic mistake, and just a series of events that occurred that the police officers believed that they were in mortal danger. Mr. Diallo's actions -- and in no way am I suggesting that Mr. Diallo is to blame for this. But Mr. Diallo's actions led these police officers to believe that they were in danger of losing their lives. That's what the criminal trial was about, because if the jury did not believe that, they would not have -- they would have convicted them rather than find them not guilty?
VAN SUSTEREN: Which raises an interesting question today raised by Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley, who was quoted as saying, "A wallet in the hand of a white man looks like a wallet. A wallet in the hand of a black man looks like a gun." That suggests that racial profiling is racism. What's your reaction to that?
SAFIR: Well, my reaction to that is that's political pandering on the part of Mr. Bradley, who doesn't really understand the circumstances of this case. The fact is that this group of individuals, these three crime officers, were on patrol, looking for a specific individual who happened to be an African American, who was a suspect in a number of rapes. Mr. Diallo fit that description. If they had been looking for a Caucasian, they would have been stopping a Caucasian who acted in their view suspiciously. So this whole notion of racial profiling in New York City or any place else, I can tell you that we do not do racial profiling in New York City. We look for suspects based on the descriptions of victims.
VAN SUSTEREN: What was the description that led them to even approach Amadou Diallo? Or what was -- was he doing anything sinister? Exactly why did they approach him?
SAFIR: They approached him because, as I said, they were looking for a rapist that he fit the description of. They saw him going in and out of his doorway, in their view, acting suspiciously. They believed they had reasonable suspicion to stop him, and that's what led to the original confrontation.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. We're going to take a break. We'll be right back with more with Howard Safir, the police commissioner in New York.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE JOSEPH TERESI: What was your verdict in reference to the charge of reckless endangerment in the first degree in the third count of the indictment?
UNIDENTIFIED JURY FOREPERSON: Not guilty.
TERESI: Was your verdict anonymous?
UNIDENTIFIED JURY FOREPERSON: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Welcome back to LARRY KING.
We're joined by Howard Safir, who is the commissioner for the New York City Police.
Commissioner Safir, this case occurred, the shooting in the Bronx. It was tried in Albany. And there's a controversy about whether or not should have been moved. Do you think these four officers could have gotten a fair trial in the Bronx?
SAFIR: I don't believe they could have, and a unanimous panel of the appellate division of the Supreme Court also agreed there was a carnival-like atmosphere here. Your typical police bashers had demonstrated and had prejudged these police officers. These police officers had the same presumption of innocence that anybody involved in a criminal trial should have, but the atmosphere here in New York with politicians and Hollywood people getting themselves arrested in front of police headquarters and making statements about the guilt of these individuals created an atmosphere where an appellate division unanimously decided that they could not get a fair trial here.
VAN SUSTEREN: Was that atmosphere unique to this particular case, or do police officers in the Bronx have to deal with that issue in every case?
SAFIR: No, they don't have to deal with it in every case. The fact is, the majority of the people in the Bronx like their police. When I go to town hall meets in the Bronx, in Brooklyn, or Queens or in Manhattan, I don't hear complaints about police officers. I don't hear accusations of profiling. What I hear is that people want more police officers, which is why this has become the safest large city in America. But there are individuals with agendas who decided that they would change the atmosphere and would create such a carnival atmosphere that these police officers could not have gotten a fair trial in the Bronx.
VAN SUSTEREN: What do you tell the people of America, though, when you talk about police officers and the reputation certainly in Los Angeles. There's a horrible scandal going on in Los Angeles, where a police officer has said he shot someone, planted evidence and there's an ongoing investigation out there into the corruption. What's going on in police departments?
SAFIR: Well, I can't speak for Los Angeles, but I can speak for the NYPD. And we are the most restrained large-city police department in the United States. We fire our weapons less than any large-city police department. Our civilian complaints are down. Our force complaints are down. And I know that the relationship between the majority of the people in the city and the NYPD is a good relationship. Now that doesn't mean that we don't have police officers who can be corrupt, or use excessive force, but in a police force of 40,000 individuals, that's a very few.
VAN SUSTEREN: How long does it take to fire 41 shots?
SAFIR: Eight seconds.
VAN SUSTEREN: And is that one person firing 41 shots, or is that four police officers who were all participating in a shooting?
SAFIR: That's four police officers participating in a shooting, and you know, it is easy to prejudge 41 shots, and that is a lot of ammunition, but you have to have been in shootings, been confronted with what you believe was deadly physically force. I've been in shootings, and I can tell you that 41 shots, although this is a real tragedy, 41 shots can be fired very quickly, in this case, in about eight seconds, as the evidence showed.
VAN SUSTEREN: Howard Safir, thank you very much for joining us this evening.
We're going to take a break.
Up next, Johnnie Cochran.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ADVOCATE: We come tonight saying that this is not the end, this is only the beginning. We said from the beginning that we would pursue this in the federal courts. We had to take a detour to Albany. That detour is over. But let it be clear that we will not rest until we get justice. You cannot build a house on a weak foundation. The foundation of this venue changed, made it where we had no chance, in our opinion, of real justice. But we will go forward with that, and our strategy on that starting tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Welcome back to LARRY KING.
I am Greta Van Susteren, sitting in this evening for Larry King.
And we go to Los Angeles now to Johnnie Cochran, who joins us.
Johnnie, is race, or was race an issue in this case in your opinion?
JOHNNIE COCHRAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I think, quite frankly, it was.
I apologize for my voice, Greta.
But I think clearly it was. If Amadou Diallo had been white he would not have been stopped under these circumstances. Bill Bradley has it right, and it does have to do with racial profiling. It's how we see each other in this society.
First of all, Mr. Amadou Diallo did not fit the description of the rapist they were looking for. If these police officers had taken a little more time in how they addressed this man -- he was totally innocent -- we wouldn't be talking about a mistake. You can't try him or blame him. They create the scenario, then they use it for justification. That's not right.
VAN SUSTEREN: When you talk about race, then, you're talking about the shooting itself and not the jury deliberations? You're not saying that the jury was racially motivated in its decision?
COCHRAN: No, I am not saying that, although I do believe that the case should have been tried in the Bronx. One of the great things about our country, is that you try the case where they occurred, because the people there understand; they appreciate credibility. The people in the Bronx understand the police in the New York City much more than the people in Albany, New York, make no mistake about that.
VAN SUSTEREN: But do you not agree, Johnnie, though, that if there were demonstrations in the Bronx, these four police officers are entitled to a fair trial no matter what, and there were four African- Americans serving on this jury, so was there really a problem in moving it? Was it really wrong?
COCHRAN: Oh, absolutely. I think there are more than one million people in the Bronx, and I think it's an insult to say you couldn't find 12 people who can be fair and impartial. All you have to do is engage in voir dire. They would have covered that right away. But to move a case like that out of the area, it has to do with the life experiences of the people who live there, who have a right to sit in judgment of this case. I think you would have seen a different result. Also, there was a black female judge on this case at the time, and she of course, was taken off the case also, without the right to appeal. I don't think that was appropriate.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, we're looking at pictures from earlier. This is right in the Bronx.
Johnnie, is there anger in the black community? Do you expect more protests?
COCHRAN: I think there's anger, but I hope that they will channel that anger to work within the system to change the system, by voting for candidates that share their vision, by speaking peacefully to these issues. We've got to address these things and help people understand the difference in how people perceive the police and how the police perceive us. It becomes imperative in this. No person, even if it takes only eight seconds, should be shot 41 times, or shot at 41 times, especially when the evidence was that he fell after just a couple of shots, because one of the first bullets penetrated his spinal cord and he fell to the ground. That's how he got his bullets in his leg and in the bottom of his feet, and so that -- those are the kind of things that I think got lost somewhere along the way here.
VAN SUSTEREN: How do we get rid of racial profiling?
COCHRAN: Well, you have to -- it starts at the top. You have got to say, we're not going to have it anymore. You know we're involved in the New Jersey four case in New Jersey. Finally, New Jersey has admitted their officers were engaged in racial profiling. If you have a leader who won't even acknowledge it exists, you've got a real problem, don't you? We've got to first of all root out the problem -- and it does exists -- of how we see individuals. Stopping people simply because of their skin color is not right. It exists whether driving while black, walking while black, jogging while black, flying while black -- it exists in this society.
VAN SUSTEREN: Are there two systems of justice?
COCHRAN: Oh, yes. Well, there's one for the poor and one for the wealthy, clearly, those who can afford legal counsel, and these defendants had good, excellent legal counsel. And so I understand that and appreciate that. But there's also a sub-part of that, of race in America, and it plays a real role. In this whole case, they tried to pretend like race was not an issue. As a result, there was a pink elephant in that courtroom, Greta, and nobody talked about the pink elephant, but yet they knew it was there.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Johnnie Cochran, thank you for joining us tonight, especially under the circumstances with that rather rough voice of yours.
We're going to take a break.
COCHRAN: I sound like Charles Rangel tonight.
VAN SUSTEREN: You do indeed. You do sound like him. And that's a complement.
We're going to take a break. We'll be right back.
When we return, we're going to have one of the lawyers of one of the officers who was acquitted today.
Stay with us.
VAN SUSTEREN: You're looking at a live scene outside the building where Amadou Diallo was killed. This is obviously a little bit quieter than it was earlier in the evening, but a number of people still have congregated outside the building.
We're joined by Stephen Worth, who is the lawyer for Edward McMellon, one of the men who was acquitted today.
Steve, thank you very much for joining us.
STEPHEN WORTH, ATTORNEY FOR OFFICER EDWARD MCMELLON: Sure.
VAN SUSTEREN: What was the role of your client in this case?
WORTH: He was one of the officers who went into the vestibule and actually fired 16 shots, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: What was it that attracted his attention to Amadou Diallo? We heard Commissioner Safir say that he fit a description. What was that description?
WORTH: Well, actually, what it -- you asked two questions. What attracted their attention was that they saw him dodging in and out of the front door, and they actually backed up the car six or seven car lengths to investigate further. Upon doing that, one of the other officers, Sean Carroll, felt that he generically matched the description of the rapist that they had been looking for.
VAN SUSTEREN: Now you say the term "generic," and immediately what goes off in my head is the light bulb of racial profiling. How do you respond to that?
WORTH: Well, actually, when they backed, they said the lighting was such that they couldn't even tell the race of the individual, and they were questioned closely about that. What caught their attention is that the individuals watching them and trying to not be seen by them. From six or seven car lengths at night in a relatively dark area, it was difficult to see the race. So that's the initial answer to that. That's the person they stopped, was a generic male. And I am not even sure they could say it was a male. But let's suppose they could. All they had was a generic male that they were going to talk to.
VAN SUSTEREN: What's this been like for your client to stand trial?
WORTH: Surreal. These are four decent, young, but well-trained and experienced police officers, who between them, took hundreds of guns off the street without incident . They're brave officers who wrestled -- Greta, my client, six days before this incident happened, wrestled a nine millimeter away from an individual, a fully loaded and operable nine millimeter, and arrested him without incident. So these were cops who were capable of making stops, and recovering guns and making minority neighborhoods safer.
VAN SUSTEREN: Had your client ever been in any trouble before? Had there ever been any complaints filed against him? WORTH: There were one or two civilian complaints, but no trouble, nor were they substantiated. And in addition, he'd been in a prior shooting where he shot his weapon one time, which by the way, came out at trial. We could have kept that information from the jury. We chose to bring it out when Ed testified to let the jury know that this is an officer who in one occasion felt the need to fire his weapon once, and in this occasion, felt the need to fire his weapon 16 times. So we brought that information to the jury.
VAN SUSTEREN: Where does your client go from here? What does he do next?
WORTH: Well you know, I heard Commissioner Safir and I heard Mayor Giuliani both express support for these officers. So it appears to me that they are going to be welcomed back to the police department. The question he has to answer over the next couple of days of reflection is whether he wants to go back. You know, this is the ultimate second guess. These officers did good work and tried to get guns out of poor neighborhoods, and when they made a good-faith mistake, which is what the jury clearly found, you know, they were indicted under circumstances which were less than appropriate, vilified by Reverend Sharpton and others and forced to stand trial for murder, and in a different city, so, you know, you have to wonder, why would you ever want to go back and do this work again?
VAN SUSTEREN: What was it like for you, trying this case?
WORTH: Well, Greta, as you know, there's nothing worse than representing an innocent client. The pressure is enormous. And this was a seminal case for all police officers, as far as how, you know, how far we're going to go in second guessing their good-faith efforts and calling their mistakes to be criminal mistakes. So personally, I felt enormous pressure for Ed to get a verdict of not guilty.
VAN SUSTEREN: What did he say to you after the verdict in your, I assume, private moments?
WORTH: Well, he's a man of few words, and the few words he said were "Thank you." He's a very stoic individual. He's a very well- read and well-traveled individual who grew up in the city in an ethically diverse neighborhood, who went to the high school of music and art. His father is a university professor. His mother is public high school teacher. You know, he doesn't fit any sort of police officer stereotype. He's well traveled and well read and well educated.
VAN SUSTEREN: did you have those moments when you talked with him about the possibility that he could have gone to prison for life?
WORTH: Absolutely. And he -- these are brave individuals. I don't want to stress it too much, but he's not stupid. He understands -- understood that he became a -- in some sense, a political pawn. He had faith in the system, but he was a realist and recognized that it might not go his way. And I said, Ed, you know, are you ready? Are you prepared? He said, if it comes, I am ready. VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, Steve Worth, for joining us, very much, tonight. Obviously won a big case today. We're going to take a break.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI, NEW YORK CITY: I hope that people concentrate on the evidence and the facts and put their prejudices and their biases aside. We have racism in New York City, unfortunately. We have racism in America. I believe New Yorkers actually do a better job of overcoming racism, anti-Semitism, prejudice than just about anybody else in the country, but that doesn't mean we don't have it. We also have a vicious form of anti-police bias, which leads to entertaining every doubt possible against the police.
VAN SUSTEREN: Welcome back.
We're now joined by Congressman Bob Barr from the state of Georgia, law professor and defense attorney and author Alan Dershowitz, and Ron Kuby, a civil rights lawyer.
Alan, first to you, what was your reaction to the verdict?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well legally, it was the correct verdict, if the police officers were telling the truth. And their evidence was corroborated by a neighbor who said that she heard the yell "gun!" before the shots were fired. Morally and publicly, I think it's being terribly misunderstood. Mayor Giuliani and Commissioner Safir seem very self-satisfied. Obviously, the police in this case acted wrong. They acted terribly. The street crime unit shouldn't have stopped him. He did nothing wrong. He did exactly what you're taught to do when you see a police officer: hold up your hands, show your wallet. And as the result of that, he was shot.
Nobody should view this verdict as in any way a justification for what the police did. I hope New York will now do the right thing. You can never compensate for this kind of tragedy with money. But New York City ought to offer the Diallo family millions of dollars of compensation. Because one thing is absolutely clear. His death was unjustified. The police in the end acted wrongly. But because the legal system views the case entirely through the eyes of the defendants and never views the case through the eyes of the victim, and because these defendants persuaded the jury that they reasonably believed that the wallet was a gun, the legal verdict was correct, but the outcome must be corrected, and compensation is clearly due to the victim here.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ron, what's your reaction to this verdict?
RON KUBY, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: I was shocked, and I'm still absolutely horrified. It's amazing to me that in the dawn of the millennium, a young black man, totally innocent, doing absolutely nothing wrong, can be gunned down in the doorway, the vestibule of his own home, shot by four police officers, hit 19 times, shot at 41 times, and every single one of those killers walked out scot-free. The verdict was indefensible in any fashion, and the reason Amadou Diallo died was because the police officers were more concerned with protecting each other than they were with protecting the life of an innocent young man. And the reason those cops were acquitted is because once again, as is so often the case in this country, the life of a black man just doesn't weigh as heavily in the balance as the life of a police officer.
VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman Barr, before being a member of Congress, you were a United States attorney. Vice President Gore has urged that the civil rights division of the Justice Department, the federal government, in essence, take a look at this case now. Should they get involved?
REP. BOB BARR (R-GA), FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I don't think that there's cause for the federal government to weigh-in on this, Greta, unless there's evidence that the trial, the procedures were somehow improper, that there might have been something wrong that was done, but by all measures, everything we know at this point, the trial was conducted fairly. There was full opportunity for both sides to present all of the evidence that they wanted to. There was nothing prejudicial. And in the absence of evidence to the contrary, I don't think it would be proper for the Department of Justice to step in and try these officers again.
VAN SUSTEREN: Alan, what about it?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, as rare as it is that I agree with Congressman Barr on anything, on this one I think I do agree. I am one of the few people that still believes that the double jeopardy clause of the United States Constitution means with a it says, and once you have a verdict, whether you agree with it or disagree with it, I don't believe that another government, federal or another state, should be able to come in and relitigate the case. I think true civil libertarians have to say to themselves, even if they disagree with verdict, the principles of double jeopardy -- our local Supreme Court have not accepted these principles -- should mandate the case be put to rest. That doesn't mean that the Justice Department shouldn't come in and investigate the street crime unit in general, shouldn't come in and see whether or not the practices engaged in by the New York City Police, which Commissioner Safir and Mayor Giuliani seem very satisfied with, don't inevitably lead to conclusions like this.
KUBY: As Professor Dershowitz knows, and I think concedes, the double jeopardy clause doesn't bar a federal prosecution based on the same conduct.
DERSHOWITZ: But it should.
KUBY: Well, maybe it should. It doesn't. And we can talk about legal abstractions and how we'd like the legal system to be. Back down to planet Earth, there's a young man, cut down in a hail of bullets, who did nothing wrong, and four people, under color of law, wearing the uniforms and carrying the guns given to them by the state of New York slaughtered him in his own home, and anything possible should be done to make sure that they pay in some fashion, and that they pay with their liberty, not just with money.
DERSHOWITZ: But, Ron, that's the difference between the two of us. You think anything possible should be done, and I think anything should be done only if it's lawful.
VAN SUSTEREN: Alan, hold that thought for one second.
We'll be right back.
And, Alan, I'll let you respond even further.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OFFICER SEAN CARROLL, DEFENDANT: At that point, everything started closing in on the object. Believing that he had just pulled and was about to fire a gun at my partner, I fired my weapon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: We're looking at pictures outside Amadou Diallo's apartment in the Bronx. This is the area in which the man was killed a little over one year ago. It has calmed down considerably since earlier this evening. People are milling around, obviously talking about the day's events.
Alan, let me go back you. I cut you off. You were opposed to a federal prosecution. What about a civil lawsuit, like they did in the Simpson case? Would that be appropriate?
DERSHOWITZ: Absolutely appropriate, desirable. I hope it's not necessary. I hope New York will do the right thing and simply offer a considerable amount of money here. Look, I am nervous about this verdict, too. I don't necessarily believe that the policemen were telling the whole truth. The story about seeing him move around in a shifty way. That's story number seven in the list of acceptable "testi-lying" that we know from the Marlin Commission and other commissions police use all the time.
The thing I think that put this case over the edge was the testimony by the neighbor, the African-American neighbor who came in and testified. Although she was very antagonistic to the police, she heard the policeman yell "gun!," and then there was shooting. That I think in the mind of several jurors corroborated that the policemen didn't make it up this time. They have made it up other times. They made it up in Los Angeles. And we have to worry a great deal about "testi-lying," particularly when it starts in the good cases, good testi-lying to put bad guys in jail moving to cases where it can be used against bad people.
But I think the verdict in this case was technically and legally correct, because you look at the case only through the eyes of the defendants. And no matter how unjust the result was, if these defendants reasonably believe that that wallet was a gun, they could not be criminally prosecuted for way they did, as unjust as the result was.
VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman Barr, if racial profiling does exist, and most -- many people in this country believe it does exist, how do we get rid of it?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, you get rid of it the same way we got rid of racial prejudice -- not racial prejudice, but improper racial activity by government officials. When I was U.S. Attorney, and as Alan and others have fought against for so long as well, and that is by effective, swift, consistent and aggressive enforcement of federal civil rights laws. It isn't something that's with need a new law for. It isn't something that we need a new executive order that Bill Bradley and Al Gore keep arguing about. The tools are there. Use them.
If there is, as Mr. Dershowitz has said, if there is, in fact, evidence that the NYPD is using racial profiling, there are already tools that the Justice Department can and should use to go in there and get rid of it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you agree or disagree, Congressman Barr, with presidential candidate Bill Bradley, who says, "A wallet in the hand of a white man looks like a wallet. A wallet in the hand of black man looks like a gun." Do you agree with that or disagree?
BARR: Well, if that had any semblance of relevancy to the case, they would have called him as an expert witness, I suppose. That's just nonsense. As the police commissioner said, that's just political pandering and coming up with these silly sayings.
No, what I think ought to happen here, is people ought the look very carefully at this verdict. Certainly, there would be consideration of a civil case. Again, if there is evidence that there was some improper racial motivation here, I haven't seen evidence, but if there is, then the federal government ought to step in.
DERSHOWITZ: But the congressman is dead wrong when he says that we don't need new laws. Racial profiling has been upheld by the United States Supreme Court. It is immoral, but is technically legal today. Cities like New York deny they use it, but policemen plainly take race into account. If this man had not been African, he simply would not have been stopped.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ron, you rant to get in?
KUBY: Over and over again in New York City, we've watched young people of color be killed because they had keys in their hands, because they had a watch on, because in one case they had a Three Musketeers bar in their hand, and now because Amadou Diallo had a wallet in his hand.
It's amazing to me that African-Americans take out their wallet to pay taxes and African-Americans take out their wallet on April 15th and hand over things to the IRS. But when an African-American takes out his wallet when confronted with a police officer, that police officer thinks, gun in his hand...
BARR: Greta, Greta, Greta, this is -- oh, Greta, this is...
KUBY: ... and shoots first and asks questions later.
BARR: This is nonsense. This is silly. The fact of the matter is there are police mistakes that are made with regard to white defendants. It's happened in Georgia and other cases that have taken a pencil or something out of their pocket. It's been has been mistaken for weapons, and tragedy occurs. This is nonsense the way this fellow's going on. These things happen regardless of the race of the defendant or the victim in a particular case...
KUBY: You know, Congressman, there are...
VAN SUSTEREN: And we're going to...
BARR: ... and we're doing everything we can to get rid of it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ron, this time I'm going to cut you off and I'll let you respond. We're going to take a break, and we'll be right back.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT JOHNSON, BRONX DISTRICT ATTORNEY: No one can ever say what the difference would have been had this case been tried in the Bronx. However, I feel very, very strongly that the appellate decision was totally incorrect in changing the venue. The defense motion indicated that jurors in the Bronx could put aside any feelings that they have and be fair and impartial. Their own poll indicated that. There's no question that 12 people could have -- 12 fair people could have been found in the Bronx. We are satisfied that these 12 were fair also.
VAN SUSTEREN: Welcome back to our remaining moments of LARRY KING. And again, we're looking at to the pictures outside the apartment of Amadou Diallo.
Ron, I cut you off before we went to break. You wanted to make a comment.
KUBY: We have this street crimes unit here in New York. That's what -- the unit these police officers belonged to. It's an almost all-white unit that almost exclusively patrols the African-American community. They've made tens of thousands of unlawful stops, stops that resulted in no arrests, the recovery of no drugs. They've grown accustomed to viewing African-Americans in the communities that they patrol as potential suspects. And it was that suspicion that led them to Amadou Diallo in the first place, that suspicion based on race, and that greater concern for their own safety than for the safety of a black man that led them to open fire. Now I don't know the last time that four black police officers shot an innocent white man 41 times. I really don't.
VAN SUSTEREN: Alan, you want to pose a question?
DERSHOWITZ: Ron, you're a great defense attorney. And you certainly believe in the presumption of innocence. What if you were representing policemen or you were appointed to represent policemen, and there was a terrible tragedy, a terrible outcome, but you came to believe that these policemen, these individual policemen, reasonably, mistakenly but reasonably, thought that the wallet was a gun. Wouldn't you defend them, and wouldn't you expect that they would be acquitted if that was the fact in this particular case?
KUBY: Well -- and that's what's so interesting. Because the crux of the case was not what they personally believed, although obviously that was important. The question is, was it reasonable? And I ask you, was it reasonable for four white police officers who had their guns out -- they had the drop on the guy, they surrounded him -- was it reasonable for them to shoot first and ask questions later? Or wouldn't the reasonable thing be to wait an extra second and see if in fact what appeared to be a wallet in fact was just a wallet?
VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman Barr...
DERSHOWITZ: Well, you know, that extra second could make the difference between life and death. And remember, too, there was testimony that the police officers thought that he had fired a shot and then one of the police officers was down.
You know, Oliver Wendell Homes said, you can't expect rationality in the presence of an uplifted knife. Ron, I think you're asking too much from a street encounter. I'm as critical as the next guy of premeditated police perjury and testi-lying, but when they're in a dark alley, I think doubts have to be resolved in favor of the police.
KUBY: And they weren't in a dark alley. They were in a vestibule of a man's home. There was no upraised knife. There was just an innocent man reaching for his wallet to show I live here, I belong here.
DERSHOWITZ: It looked like a gun.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well let me switch gears for one second and go back to Congressman Barr.
Congressman Barr, lots of problems in the Los Angeles Police Department, a terrible scandal brewing there including a man -- a police officer saying that he shot at a man and planted a gun on a man, went to prison, paralyzed a police officer, has now come clean and says there are lots of corruption in the LAPD. What should the federal government do, if anything?
BARR: Well, first of all, what we ought to do is the people of Los Angeles certainly ought to demand a thorough house cleaning from top to bottom when there is evidence such as appears to be coming out in Los Angeles.
I think what the federal government ought to do is to monitor those sorts of situations if, in fact, as in the scenario you outlined it would run afoul of federal civil rights laws. And if, in fact, very quickly L.A. does not get its act together and there are remaining cases then at that point, I think it would be appropriate for the Department of Justice to step in.
DERSHOWITZ: But, Congressman Barr...
VAN SUSTEREN: Alan, what should happen?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, Congressman Barr, do you remember how you attacked me and criticized me when I talked about testi-lying in the LAPD and asked for an investigation five years ago, and how the police commissioner there and the mayor there held press conferences, and how Congress issued a resolution condemning me because I then called for an inquiry, which, if it were made five years ago maybe could have avoided this problem?
The time has come to look very critically into this problem of testi-lying. It's pervasive. It exists across the country. Judges approve it, prosecutors approve it, and many people in the public approve it when it gets the bad guy off the street. The other night on "LAPD Blue," Sipowicz, the great star, was teaching the young cop how to do the real job. And what you do is you lie in order to get the bad guy. That's what is acceptable in America today, and that's what leads to the kinds of issues that...
BARR: No, I mean, Alan, I...
VAN SUSTEREN: And, I'm sorry to...
BARR: ... I certainly don't disagree with that.
VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman Barr, I'm sorry to interrupt you and Alan and Ron Kuby.
Thank you all very much for joining me this evening on LARRY KING.
Larry will be back on Monday. He'll be hosting from New York, and his guest: Mayor Giuliani.
So make sure you watch. And stay tuned to CNN. "NEWSSTAND" is next.
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