Defense begins case in Bell trial

April 3, 2008 5:07:06 PM PDT
An NYPD officer involved in the 50-shot barrage that killed an unarmed groom on his wedding day says that Detective Gescard Isnora gave ample warning before opening fire.The testimony by Michael Carey, who is not charged, is the first public account by an officer involved in the November 2006 shooting which led to the death of Sean Bell in Queens.

His description of the chaotic crime scene launched the defense portion of the trial for three detectives.

He described the scene as Detective Giscard Isnora stepped off the sidewalk to confront Bell and his friends who were about to pull away from the curb. "He had a gun in his right hand. He was yelling, 'Police! Police! Show your hands!"

Carey said the car lurched forward, clipping Isnora's leg. Then collided with the minivan in which Carey was seated next to Det. Michael Oliver, the driver. Bell's car then lurched backward.

Isnora, he said, shouted to the detectives, "He's got a gun, he's got a gun!"

"I heard others yelling police commands," he insisted.

"I took aim towards the front passenger and fired three shots." When Isnora seemed to step into his line of fire, he said, he stopped shooting and ducked behind his open door.

"I ducked down," he said, "because I believed that the front passenger had a gun and was firing back at us. I had already observed the car striking a fellow officer yelling police commands."

The testimony forms the cornerstone of the defense case. It is in stark contrast to the testimony of several other witnesses including the surviving victims and the commander of the undercover operation, itself.

Testimony concluded Friday afternoon, and will resume Monday.

Isnora and Michael Oliver have pleaded not guilty to manslaughter. Marc Cooper has pleaded not guilty to reckless endangerment.

The prosecution in the 50 bullet trial -- closed with its 50th witness -- the doctor who kept Joseph Guzman alive.

Over the past six weeks, both survivors -- Guzman -- and Trent Benefield -- were called to testify,

Along with everyone who worked in the club that night, and everyone who attended Sean Bell's bachelor party.

"The prosecution either wants to show that there was no justification at all, or the justification ended at some point in time...Whether it was three shots, fours shots, five shots..when did that justification end," said David Schwartz, Former Assistant D.A.

The detectives union says prosecution witnesses helped the defense establish substantial doubt about the case against detectives Gescard Isnora, Michael Oliver and Marc Cooper.

There are indications now that the three may not testify in their own defense.

And that will make officer Michael Carey all the more significant.

He was in the police van driven by defendant Michael Oliver.

After colliding with Bell's car -- and after seeing detective Isnora nearly run down by Bell -- Carey fired three shots.

What he says about the officers who fired more will be crucial.

Either way, Bell's fiancee is satisfied with the prosecution.

"At the end of the day nothing will bring Sean back, so there's no win for me in this," Nicole Bell, victim's fiance.

Officer Carey is in the rare position of having faced the same situation as the defendants... He even fired his weapon. But he was not indicted because his bullets never hit any of the men in Bell's car.