New York 1 News

February 24, 2000

First Witness Testifies in Diallo Trial

The Amadou Diallo police shooting trial began in Albany Wednesday, as opening arguments were presented and the first witness was called to testify. Four police officers are on trial for fatally shooting Diallo nearly one year ago outside his Bronx apartment. Diallo, who was unarmed at the time of the shooting, was killed in a hail of 41 bullets. Officers Sean Carroll, Kenneth Boss, Edward McMellon and Richard Murphy are charged with second degree murder and reckless endangerment. They all face 25 years to life in prison if they are convicted. Prosecutors presented a brief opening statement Wednesday. Assistant District Attorney Eric Warner told jurors the four white officers involved "made a conscious decision'' to shoot. Warner was then followed by attorneys for each of the four officers being tried. Defense lawyer Stephen Worth told jurors the officers fired only because they believed Diallo was armed. Worth also says the case is being fueled by race and and claims of police brutality. There was quick reaction to this morning's opening statements. As the jury broke for lunch, the Reverend Al Sharpton held a news conference. He called opening statements by defense lawyers "repulsive," saying it was unfair for the attorneys to say it was Diallo's fault that police shot at him and that it's insulting to portray the Bronx neighborhood where Diallo lived as a warzone. "To paint a picture in Albany like Soundview is the wild, wild west is a further insult," says Sharpton. "To act as if you have to sooth and tame people instead of police them shows us how ludicrous this defense is." After an hour-long break, the first witness was called to testify. Detective Joseph Flannino, a 19 year veteran of the NYPD, was first shown crime scene photos and a scale model of Diallo's apartment building. Flannino was then asked about the lighting in the vestibule of Diallo's apartment, and he told the court there were no visibility problems for the officers and that he could see the features of Diallo's face without a flashlight. Testimony in the case is expected to last about a month. Jury selection wrapped up Tuesday, as attorneys picked five white men and two African American women. Five other jurors were selected on Monday. Four alternate jurors were also selected Tuesday. The 12-member panel consists of four African American women, six white men and two white women. The foreperson is an African American woman in her 50's who lived in the Bronx for a decade, and whose son is a private investigator. A state judge ruled in December that the trial should be moved from the Bronx because the court said the four officers could not get a fair trial there.