|Vol. 13, No. 5
||March 9 - 22,
Focus on Diallo Case at Tracey Black
By JULES RUBENSTEIN
Towers residents celebrated their sixth annual Black History Month
Brunch on Saturday, Feb. 26, but the emphasis was very much on current
events with guest speaker Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson explaining
his role in the Diallo shooting trial. With the acquittal of the police
officers involved in the nationally publicized trial just the night
before, Johnson faced an audience anxious for more facts on how his
office prepared and prosecuted the case.
But before Johnson addressed the group, Assemblyman Jeffrey Klein,
who sponsors the yearly event, devoted much of his opening comments
to the same topic.
Klein, who took issue with the way defense attorneys depicted Soundview,
the neighborhood where Diallo lived, said the stories of witnesses
during the trial depicted a block much like any other in the city
or the state -- someone changing a baby's diaper, another person watching
TV with her family, and another young man walking home who was in
the Police Academy. "The Soundview community is a hard-working
community," Klein said in an interview after the event. "The
reason they're there is to get their share of the American dream."
He added that "part of the problem is how we're painting these
Klein said that although the shooting wasn't an isolated incident,
"it's not an indictment of the entire Police Department."
But he added, "We as a city have to make sure everyone is comfortable
with the police and clearly the minority community is not."
At the brunch, Klein also presented State Assembly awards to Tracey
residents Rosemary Brown, Nelson Ross and Cynthia Williams. The event
was organized by the Tracey Towers Networking Committee.
District Attorney Johnson opened his remarks by saying, "It has
been a long day. I left Albany this morning by car at 8:15. In fact,
it has been a long month, it has been a long year."
"Those who have expressed outrage, are not inappropriate at all,
not at all," Johnson said. "Indeed, it is amazing that this
entire state and nation has not expressed outrage over the fact that
an innocent person, an unarmed person, in his own vestibule could
lose his life in such a violent and wrongful manner."
"Right at this moment," Johnson said, "it is hard for
us to look at our justice system in a positive light. I think the
defining moment was the decision of the Appellate Division to remove
this case to Albany."
Johnson said a poll was taken by defense attorneys regarding the ability
of prospective Bronx jurors to hear the case, and those citizens responded
that they could be impartial.
"So the Appellate Division ignored that," he said. "They
ignored the people of the Bronx. They ignored the fact that in places
like Tracey Towers, right here in this room, we could find 12 people
who would be fair and impartial."
As to the trial, Johnson defended the performance of his staff.
"I had the ability to rely on a very, very talented staff. I
think people have really minimized the amount of effort that we put
"I can understand somebody saying 'I would have done this different
or I would have done that different'" he said. "When you're
trying a case, you make judgement calls, but I cannot understand somebody
who questioned our efforts and commitment to the case."
In concluding his remarks, the DA linked the case to landmarks of
black history. "So now, Amadou Diallo, an innocent, hard-working
peddler from Guinea, has taken his place in the history of this nation.
It is my hope that we will learn from this, that somehow we will reach
the people that don't understand the fear some people have in their
neighborhoods, not only from the criminals, but from the police.
"This is an opportunity," he concluded. "Please, everyone
open their eyes facing the rising sun of a new day begun, let us march
on 'til victory is won."
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