Press seeks Diallo exhibits
May 1, 2000
Lawyers for several media organizations, including The New York Times, Daily News, Newsday and The Associated Press, will appear before the Third Appellate Department Friday to argue against State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi's refusal to release court exhibits during the Amadou Diallo trial.
The news organizations argue that a judge cannot unilaterally choose what exhibits not to release. "There is no case in the history of the state in which a judge has sealed every piece of paper filed, as Teresi did," says Eve Burton, an attorney representing the Daily News.
Teresi, who presided over the Diallo trial after the racially charged case was moved to Albany from the Bronx, said in court papers that the media were not specific in requesting which exhibits they wanted and that some exhibits the media requested were never entered into evidence. He added that he took the unprecedented step of allowing the entire trial to be televised.
Graham Rayman, a Newsday reporter who covered the trial, says Teresi refused to allow him and other reporters access all court exhibits, including a report by Det. Joseph Flannino, a Police Department crime scene investigator, that was used extensively during his testimony. Teresi, in his court papers, maintains that Flannino's report was not entered into evidence.
Rayman says that, contrary to court papers, Flannino's report was entered into evidence and that when Rayman and other reporters asked Teresi to make it available, a court officer "wouldn't allow us to get within 100 feet of his office."
Meanwhile, some in the court system remain puzzled by Teresi's continued impunity in holding a court employee hostage in his office at the end of the Diallo trial in February. The employee, the state court's official spokesman David Bookstaver, said then that Teresi prevented him from leaving his chambers by ordering two Albany sheriff's deputies to block the door.
Bookstaver, who declined to discuss the incident last week, said at the time that Teresi informed him he was holding him against his will because Teresi feared Bookstaver might alert the media to the fact that the Diallo jury had reached a verdict. Some have argued that alerting the media to this development was Bookstaver's job.
Teresi has offered no public explanation or apology for holding Bookstaver, which some people believe was against the law.
Teresi is apparently such a power in Albany that both Bookstaver's direct superior, Jonathan Lippman, the court's chief administrator, and Chief Justice Judith Kaye appear reluctant to take any action.
Through Bookstaver, Lippman declined to comment. Neither Kaye nor Teresi returned calls to Newsday.
After three years of generally obnoxious behavior, culminating earlier this year at the annual Police Foundation dinner when he referred to two New York Times reporters as "slime," Safir is now offering reporters the opportunity to spend a full, action-packed day with him.
After refusing for his first year as commissioner to hold news conferences with in-house reporters at One Police Plaza, the next year Safir began holding them weekly. Unfortunately, they didn't produce much news. For example, how many times can you denounce the state parole system or refuse to answer questions about why you assigned 25 police officers to your wife Carol's police museum? So last year Safir ended them-largely, it appears, because no one printed anything, he said.
Then last month, after the latest firing of the editor-in-chief at the Daily News, Safir let it be known he would allow a News reporter to accompany him. On Friday, March 29, the great event occurred. The News' subsequent story included such lines as, "By many objective standards, Safir is doing a good job." And, "He also knows what it's like to face down the barrel of a gun."
Safir was so pleased that he agreed to allow an Associated Press reporter to follow suit. This prompted Your Humble Servant to approach the still occasionally functional deputy commissioner of public information, Marilyn Mode. Alas, before Mode could respond, her wee dog Lil began barking to beat the band. Canine translation: "I have nothing for you."
Heard: City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Astoria) waxing poetic about former Commissioner Bill Bratton and Bratton's latest tune, "Bill Bratton loves community policing." Reality: Community policing began under Giuliani's predecessor, David Dinkins. When Bratton became commissioner, he scrapped it. His guys called it "social work."
© 2000 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.