New York Post
February 17, 2000


DIALLO-CASE JURY CAN MULL LESSER CHARGES LESSER RAP

By LAURA ITALIANO

SIGNS OF ANGUISH: Sgt. Robert Patelli testifies yesterday that the cops who killed Amadou Diallo were "an emotional mess" when he arrived on the scene. - AP    

ALBANY -- Unwilling to roll the dice on an all-or-nothing murder verdict, lawyers on both sides in the Amadou Diallo case agreed yesterday to let jurors consider lesser charges against the four accused cops.

The less serious charges of criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter carry sentences of as much as 25 years in prison -- and as little as probation.

Conviction on the original charge of second-degree murder could bring life in prison.

The agreement -- all but certain to be approved today by Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi -- came as both sides said they were out of witnesses, bringing testimony to a sudden conclusion.

"The proof is closed," Teresi told jurors, officially ending a breakneck-paced two weeks of testimony.

By agreeing to let jurors vote on lesser charges when they begin deliberations Wednesday, each side tacitly admitted that they won't risk giving jurors the single choice of guilty or not guilty of murder.

"Your chances are better at the racetrack if you bet across the board," John Patten, lawyer for Officer Sean Carroll, jokingly explained.

The racially mixed jury of six women and six men will now likely have the chance to consider a range of charges.

The choices would still include the most serious, original charges of second-degree murder: that the four Bronx officers on trial committed murder -- either intentionally or through depraved indifference to human life -- when they fired 41 times at the unarmed Diallo as he stood in his Bronx vestibule last February.

Officers Ed McMellon, Sean Carroll, Kenneth Boss and Richard Murphy -- who say they mistakenly believed Diallo had a gun -- face up to life in prison if convicted of that top charge.

Their original indictment also includes the charge of first-degree reckless endangerment, alleging that they showed a depraved indifference to human life by recklessly putting Diallo at grave risk of death. That charge carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison.

But the four would face as little as probation if convicted of the least serious of the new charges to be added to the jury's plate.

If approved by Teresi, the new charges would include, from most to least serious:

First-degree manslaughter -- Jurors must find the four cops intended to cause Diallo serious physical harm when they shot him to death. The sentence ranges from five up to 25 years in prison.

Second-degree manslaughter -- Jurors must find the four cops recklessly caused Diallo's death. The sentence ranges from probation to 15 years in prison.

Criminally negligent homicide -- Jurors must find the four cops negligently caused his death. Probation to four years in prison.

Meanwhile, one of the trial's last witnesses, Sgt. Robert Patelli, testified that Boss was crying and Carroll was "an emotional mess" when he arrived at the scene minutes after the shooting.

Patelli, a supervisor in the accused cops' Street Crime Unit, also testified Diallo's "eyes were glassy and half open ... I've seen that look before ... I was pretty sure he was dead."