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February 28, 2002

Citizens React To Tossed Out Convictions

Many See Bias In The Courts In Favor Of Cops

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NEW YORK -- The decision in favor of Charles Schwarz, Thomas Wiese and Thomas Bruder confirms the fears of some New Yorkers who see a pattern of courts favoring cops over citizens.

"If it was a regular person they would be in prison, but because they're police officers they get special treatment, majority of the time," said Joanie Alcoser of the South Bronx.

"It makes you wonder about the justice system, does it really work? I mean that's the main thing," said Dawn Saldivar, also from the South Bronx.

Three judges concurred on the 29-page decision, including John Walker, who was appointed by his distant cousin, the elder President George Bush; and two President Bill Clinton appointees, including Jose Cabranes, who is perhaps the most respected Hispanic in the federal judiciary.

Some see these judges as part of a system that's biased in favor of police.

"I see a bias in favor of the rule of law, and the rules of law," said Michael Meyer, director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition. "Every trial is separate, different, special in the facts. I think there's a pattern and a practice of a blue wall of silence on the part of cops."

Myers believed that the so-called "blue wall of silence" on the part of the cops hindered effective prosecution in this case, making Thursday's reversal likely.

Former prosecutor Dan Richman from Fordham Law School said the court of appeals showed a tremendous sensitivity to the rights of defendants -- even those who are unpopular.

"I think so many people who will say that somebody got off on a technicality would be the first where other defendants are involved to assert the need to respect every single legal principle," said Richman. "It all depends on which defendants are involved and what one's cause is."

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