Change of venue denied in Bell case

January 6, 2008 9:00:00 PM PST
Eyewitness News has learned the change of venue request in the Sean Bell case has been denied.Attorneys for detectives Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper filed the motion two weeks ago, and it did not sit well with Bell's fiance, family, friends, Al Sharpton and other supporters of the case staying in Queens.

"What they're doing is just causing more pain for my family," Sean Bell's fiancée, Nicole Paultre-Bell, said.

It's one of the reasons why Paultre-Bell said the upcoming trial of these police detectives should stay in Queens.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown released the following statement on the ruling: "Today's decision reflects that which we said all along, that a fair and impartial jury can be selected from among the 2.3 million residents of Queens County."

The detectives allegedly shot and killed Sean Bell in a hail of 50 bullets. They also injured two of his friends - Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman - outside a Queens nightclub where the men were celebrating Bell's bachelor party. He was supposed to marry his fiancee later that day. The officers allegedly believed Bell had a gun.

"My family was ruined in Queens. These cops were indicted in Queens," Paultre-Bell said. "And this trial should stay in Queens."

The Reverend Al Sharpton issued the following statement on the ruling: "The decision made by the Appellate Court to deny a venue change in the upcoming trial on the killing of Sean Bell is a victory for the people in the state of New York and specifically in the county of Queens. It dispels the notion that the Diallo trick of 1999 [that there be a venue change to try police outside of the county of their actions that are in question] will be a legal precedent in the state. Though this does not give an advantage or disadvantage for any of the involved parties, it does take the stain of an unfair and uneven playing field from at least the geographic questions that surround these trials. On Tuesday, February 5 th in the political season it will be Super Tuesday, on Monday February 4th [the beginning date of the trial] it will be Super Monday in the civil rights movement around this country."

The Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court said Wednesday that the defendants, who want to move the trial, may ask again after the jury selection.

Prosecutors have argued that it won't be hard to find fair jurors in Queens.

Oliver and Isnora have pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, while Cooper has pleaded not guilty to reckless endangerment.

The trial in the Bell shooting set to begin in Queens on February 4th in Harlem.