New York Post
February 28, 2000



HOMECOMING: Acquitted Officer Sean Carroll (center) is greeted by a Suffolk County police officer as he returns from church with his family yesterday. - N.Y. Post: Mary Altaffer  

ALBANY -- The four white cops who killed Amadou Diallo were acquitted because prosecutors had no case, a juror told the Post yesterday.

"They presented very little we could go on," said Helen Harder. "Whether that was their fault or there wasn't anything else there, I don't know. But that's why it came out the way it did."

Both Harder, the panel's lone white woman, and forewoman Arlene Taylor, who is black, insisted race did not play a role. Taylor blasted black critics of the verdict and said protesters should be arrested.

Harder, 72, wife of a former FBI agent, said the prosecution could not knock down the defense case, which included compelling testimony from the four cops.

"You could put yourself where they were and feel it was justified, that they acted within established police boundaries," Harder said.

During often-emotional testimony, the officers -- who fired 41 shots at the unarmed West African immigrant -- testified that the shooting death was a tragic mistake, but not murder.

They said Diallo was acting suspiciously and they opened fire because they thought a wallet he was holding up was a gun.

"I'm not saying things were perfect, and maybe there needs to be better training, but while 41 shots may seem excessive, the officers were within their boundaries," Harder said.

Harder said the jury did not give much credence to testimony from Schrrie Elliott, a Diallo neighbor called as a hostile witness by the defense.

Elliott initially told the jurors someone yelled, "Gun!" before the bullets started flying. But when she was cross-examined, she told prosecutors that Diallo himself could have yelled the word.

"She had no credibility," Harder said. "She started out one place, and ended up on both sides."

Harder said the jurors were "shocked" when prosecutors did not cross-examine the trial's last witness -- a criminologist who said the four officers followed proper procedure.

It was a strong last impression for the defense to leave with jurors, she said.

"All of a sudden the case was over," she said. "We had no idea, and still don't, why [the prosecution] didn't question him."

Meanwhile, at least one juror decided to answer the panel's critics.

Taylor said she is sick of being labeled a "traitor" by angry black activists -- saying protesters "should be arrested."

The last straw, she said, came Saturday evening when she tuned in to a local college radio station to listen to reggae and, instead, heard callers identified as black ripping the four black Diallo jury members.

"It bothers me," said Taylor, a former Bronx resident. "They weren't there. They didn't see what we were given. It's different being in that room."

A defiant Taylor said she and the three other black jurors did not feel pressure to make a racial statement through the verdict.

"If people don't like that, tough," she said. "We did what we had to do. I knew either way we were going to get heat," he said.