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Officers indicted in Diallo case want murder charges dismissed

Diallo was allegedly shot 19 times by four New York police officers

Crime and punishment

August 2, 1999
Web posted at: 5:31 p.m. EDT (2131 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Defense attorneys representing four policemen accused of firing 41 bullets at unarmed West African immigrant Amadou Diallo -- hitting him 19 times and killing him -- have filed motions to have the case dismissed.

Motions on behalf of the officers -- Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon, Kenneth Boss and Richard Murphy -- were filed by Monday's deadline at the Bronx County Courthouse.

Diallo, a 22-year-old street peddler from Guinea, died February 4 after allegedly being shot in the vestibule of his Bronx apartment building by the four officers. They were patrolling in plain clothes as part of the city's undercover street crimes unit, which focuses on seizing illegally possessed guns.

The officers' attorneys have said they thought Diallo was reaching for a gun when they fired, and that Diallo did not fall until the firing stopped.

In March, the officers were each indicted on two counts of second-degree murder as a result of the February shooting. All pleaded not guilty and have been free on $100,000 bail.

If convicted, they would face a maximum of 25 years to life in prison.

No New York City police officer has ever been convicted of murder for actions in the line of duty. A grand jury charged a New York officer with murder only once before, in 1992, but the charges were reduced and the officer was acquitted.

Defense seeks grand jury information

The defense motions, filed separately for each officer, seek to have the charges reduced or dismissed.

Defense attorneys are also asking the court to release the grand jury minutes for inspection.

Boss' attorney, Steven Brounstein, said he wanted to check the attendance records to make sure that at least 12 of the 16 grand jurors required to vote an indictment had heard all the evidence, as rules require.

The attorneys have also asked to have the prosecution's expert testimony before the grand jury released.

"It's truly the interest of justice. If you want to search for the truth here, let's not play cat and mouse," said Brounstein.

McMellon's attorney, Steven Worth, said, "There is no reason for that to be kept confidential."

Worth said there is no conflict between their separately filed motions, and the fact that the four attorneys were planning a joint defense.

For now, no attorney has asked for a change of trial venue, a motion that would need to be filed with the higher appellate court if and when the appropriate time comes.

However, Carroll's attorney, Burt Roberts, said he intends to file a change of venue motion.

Several weeks of highly publicized civil disobedience -- including the arrests of more than 1,200 protesters outside police headquarters -- occurred prior to the indictments and would be the basis for seeking to move the trial.

State Supreme Court Judge Patricia Williams had set Monday as the deadline for defense motions.

The Bronx District Attorney has until mid-September to respond, with Judge Williams expected to rule on the motions during a September 29 pre-trial hearing.

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