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by Peter Moskos

January 23, 2008

Sean Bell shooting trial to stay in Queens

The latest delay in the trial of police officers for killing Sean Bell comes from defense lawyers. They wanted the trial moved out of Queens. This motion was denied.

I don't really have a position on the trial location. But this is still a big decision. It's not going to be easy to convict the officers (and for good reason), but there was no chance of conviction if the venue was moved outside of the city. It's not the officers can't get a fair trial in Queens. It's simply that city juries, on average, are much less pro-police than suburban juries.

The officers who beat Rodney King would not have been acquitted if their trial hadn't been moved to conservative (and much more white) Simi Vally. The killer of police officer Kevon Gavin would have been convicted had his trial not been in Baltimore City. Justified or not, city folk, particularly African-American city folk, are less likely to trust police. In a police-related trial, jury bias--both pro- and anti-police--can outweigh the facts.

In the case of Sean Bell, conviction is still unlikely. Mistakes are usually not crimes, especially for police officers.

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