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Politics or Justice?

January 29, 2018

NYPD Sgt. Hugh Barry’s murder trial begins Tuesday, guaranteed to reopen the city’s long-festering racial wounds.

Barry, who is white, is accused of shooting Deborah Danner, an emotionally disturbed 66-year-old black woman, in her Bronx apartment after police say she swung a baseball bat at him.

Click here to read what the police brass say about NYPD ConfidentialAlso on trial of another sort will be NYPD Commissioner Jim O’Neill and Mayor Bill de Blasio — not for criminal wrongdoing but for publicly prejudging the case.

“We failed,” O’Neill said the morning after the shooting, which happened on Oct. 18, 2016 in his first month as commissioner, and whose remarks many in the department considered to have been a rookie mistake. “There was a person in crisis. … We were called to that apartment to help someone [and] we ended up killing her.” He added that Barry had not followed procedure because he didn’t use his stun gun or call specially trained detectives from the Emergency Service Unit.

The mayor, displaying his subliminal police bias, said: “It’s quite clear that our officers are supposed to use deadly force only when faced with a dire situation and it is very hard for any of us to see that standard was met here. ... Deborah Danner should be alive right now. Period.”

Last June, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark announced that a grand jury had indicted Barry on second-degree murder, first- and second-degree manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide. Second-degree murder means intentional murder, and appears to be an overcharge. Article 35 of NY State’s Criminal Procedure law allows a police officer to use deadly force if he feels his life is threatened.

At the same time, the judicial system has a way of protecting cops in such circumstances — notably in the Bronx.

It did so in the case of Stephen Sullivan, the white cop who shot Eleanor Bumpurs, an emotionally disturbed black woman, during an eviction procedure in 1984 after police said she charged them with a 10-inch knife.

It did so in the case of Frank Livoti who caused the death of Anthony Baez in 1994, which stemmed from Livoti’s interrupting a football game.

Click here to read the New York Times profile of Leonard LevittThe system also protected the four cops who fatally shot Amadou Diallo, who was standing in the vestibule of his apartment building in 1999 when a passing cop mistook his wallet for a gun and with his three partners shot him 19 times.

In all three cases, the cops waived their right to a jury trial, fearing the anti-police bias of Bronx juries. Instead they opted to have their cases tried by a judge.

In the Bumpurs case, the judiciary — no one knows exactly who — selected Fred Eggert, a pro-cop judge nearing retirement to try Sullivan. Eggert acquitted him.

In the Baez case, Judge Gerald Sheindlin, the husband of television’s Judge Judy, was selected to try Livoti. He acquitted him. [Livoti was convicted in federal court of violating Baez’s civil rights two years later.]

Click here to read the Washington Post article on NYPD ConfidentialThe four cops who shot Diallo were to have been tried by Judge Patricia Williams, who the cops’ attorneys felt was biased against them. The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association then hired Burton Roberts, a retired Bronx supervising judge, who convinced the Appellate Department to move the trial out of the Bronx. It was moved to Albany, of all places, where a jury acquitted all four. That night, the presiding judge, Joseph Teresi, attended a PBA victory celebration.

Barry also has opted to be tried by a judge. He will be Robert Neary, a longtime Westchester prosecutor and judge who for some reason now sits in the Bronx. Colleagues described Neary, a former college football player, to NYPD Confidential as a “law-and-order, pro-cop” judge who is “reasonable."

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