New York 1 News

February 24, 2000

Diallo's Roomate, Neighbor Testify in Police Shooting Trial

More testimony was heard Thursday in an Albany, New York courtroom in the trial of four New York City police officers accused of killing Amadou Diallo. Six witnesses testified before the court Thursday, and the trial is now in recess until Monday. 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. On Thursday, a neighbor who lives across the street from Diallo's apartment took the witness stand. Debbie Rivera told the court that she heard shots being fired outside her window but didn't witness the actual incident. Rivera also testified that she heard no voices before the shooting started. The officers claim they ordered Diallo to stop. During cross-examination from defense attorneys, Rivera testified that she had already seen news reports of the shooting before police questioned her about the incident. Rivera added that when detectives came to her house, "I didn't want to talk to the police at all. I didn't trust nobody." Diallo's roomate also testified Thursday. He told jurors the vestibule that Diallo was shot in was well-lit, and cried when shown a photograph of his former roomate. Also Thursday morning, Donald Riley - an FDNY EMT who treated Diallo at the scene of the shooting - testified about the lighting inside the vestibule where Diallo was shot. He also told the court the vestibule was lit well enough to see Diallo. However, defense attorneys questioned his recollection of the night in question, and Riley admitted his memory was only refreshed when prosecutors showed him photographs of the crime scene during trial preparations. The trial proceedings on Wednesday began with opening arguments and the questioning of one witness. Defense lawyers delivered opening arguments for about one hour. They said they wanted to get jurors to put themselves in the officers' shoes. The lawyers also described their clients as well-trained, experienced officers. One of the defense attorneys maintained Diallo's actions were suspicious. Bennett Epstein, Sean Carroll's attorney, said, "I am sure [Diallo] was a terrific son. I am sure to his parents he was a saint. But on that night he was a saint who felt compelled to avoid the police, and that reaction caused a chain reaction that caused this tragedy to happen." At one point, Judge Joseph Teresi interjected when Edward McMellon's attorney Stephen Worth referred to the organized protests surrounding the case. Worth said, "How did we get here? We got here because some people had an agenda." Judge Teresi responded, "Objection. Confine yourself to what the evidence will prove." Worth then said, "The evidence will prove the officers shot because of self defense." The prosecution's opening statement took about ten minutes. Bronx District Attorney Eric Warner said the officers made a conscious decision to shoot Diallo without warning, and he described just how Diallo was hit with 19 of the officers 41 bullets. Warner also said, "The shots were fired at very close range to the vestibule. And let's be absoluately clear - each shot required a pull of the trigger. One shot hit Amadou in the chest, went through his heart and and into his spinal cord." Wednesday's first witness was Jospeh Flannino, a detective from the crime scene unit. He answered several questions from the prosecution and the defense about the lighting in the vestibule where Diallo was shot. Defense Attorney John Patten asked: "Were you about to see the features of Amadou Diallo?" Flannino resonded "Yes." Patten then asked, "Did you need a flashlight to do so?" Flannino responsed, "No." Testimony in the case is expected to last about a month.