Sean Bell officers' defense team in D.C.

May 7, 2008 5:08:38 PM PDT
As people protest in New York, members of the union that represents the detectives involved in the Sean Bell shooting are on Capitol Hill. They are meeting with lawmakers.Eyewitness News reporter NJ Burkett is in Washington, D.C. with more on what they're hoping to achieve.

The president of New York's detectives' union arrived on Capitol Hill Wednesday afternoon with key members of the defense team. They are determined to get equal time.

"From the very beginning in this case, I have found myself and the Detectives' Endowment Association in the position to keep the playing field level," union president Michael Palladino said. "So even though we've been exonerated in a court of law in New York City, I still find us having to level the playing field down here in Washington, D.C."

Last month's verdict was stunning, as all three detectives were acquitted of all charges in the shooting death of Sean Bell. The judge ruled that the officers were justified in opening fire, despite the fact that Bell and his two surviving friends were unarmed.

Within days of the verdict, John Conyers, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, met with the survivors and Bell's family, who are now demanding a federal civil rights prosecution.

Defense attorneys are clearly hoping that today's meetings will help head off federal indictments against the three officers.

"We believe that after they hear the facts and the circumstances from our clients' point of view, that, at least, they will be able to make an educated decision," defense attorney Paul Martin said.

After his meeting with defense team today, Congressman Gerald Nadler, who has been critical of the shooting, said he was willing to listen.

"I'm interested in what anybody has to say," he said.

Because of the way the law is written, many legal experts believe that federal charges are unlikely. A decision might not be known for several months.