Optometrist: Bell legally blind in one eye

March 27, 2008 3:10:44 PM PDT
It has been day after day of dramatic testimony in the Sean Bell murder trial, and Thursday was no different.Bell's optometrist testified that Bell was legally blind in his right eye and he might not have been able to see anything on that side unless it were right in front of his face.

That includes a police badge.

Three detectives are on trial for killing Bell in a hail of bullets outside the Kalua Cabaret in Queens.

Eyewitness News reporter NJ Burkett has more from the courthouse in Kew Gardens.

Dr. Daniel Friedman is an optometrist who examined Bell's eyes six months before the shooting. Bell, he said, had near-normal 20/30 vision in his left eye. But he was 20/400 in the other, making him legally blind in his right eye.

The only thing he could see without glasses in his right eye, the doctor testified, would have to be less than four inches away from his face.

What Bell saw or did not see could be crucial to the case. Undercover detective Gescard Isnora, the officer who fired first, has insisted that he clearly identified himself as a police officer both before and during the shooting.

However, every other eyewitness has testified to the contrary. On Tuesday, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy admitted that he never check Bell's eyes to see whether he was wearing contact lenses.

"Maybe detective Isnora did have his shield on, but Sean Bell couldn't see it," Detectives' Endowment Association president Michael Palladino said.

Supporters of the victims say Sean Bell must have seen something. Why else, they ask, would he try so desperately to escape from a man in street clothes with a gun?

"It was clear that they were being attacked," Bell's family's attorney, Michael Hardy, said. "And when they were being attacked, they reacted accordingly."

Despite the fact that Bell was legally blind in one eye, his near perfect vision in the other eye makes it legal for him to be driving in New York state. Of course, it was not legal for him to have been driving drunk. Friedman testified that Bell's drinking probably made his vision worse.