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CNN Today

Jury Begins Deliberations in Amadou Diallo Shooting

Aired February 23, 2000 - 2:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: First, a racially charged trial in New York: Amadou Diallo came to the U.S. from West Africa to go to college. Instead, he wound up dead in the hail of police gunfire. Today, an upstate jury is deciding whether police had reason to fire 41 times or whether four white officers jumped to the wrong conclusion and killed an unarmed black man.

CNN's Maria Hinojosa is watching this trial unfold in Albany -- Maria.

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, the jury began deliberating just under an hour ago we heard just a few minutes ago that they asked for easels, a yardstick, pens and magic markers.

Now, we also heard that Mrs. Diallo left the courtroom and she was very upset after hearing the judge's charges to the jury, which took about three and a half hours.

The jury will try to determine whether or not the officers are guilty of second-degree murder, first degree manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide. And among the issues that they will consider: Did the officers act recklessly when they shot at Amadou Diallo 41 times? Were the officers truthful in their testimony when they said that they identified themselves to Amadou Diallo and told him to stop and then felt threatened when he reached into his pocket and they thought he was pulling out a gun, which was actually a wallet? Or will the jurors believe the one eyewitness who said the officers came out of their car with their guns drawn, and then never identified themselves and continued shooting at Amadou Diallo even when he was down?

The central issues the jurors must consider is whether or not -- and this was according to the judge's instructions -- whether or not the police officers were justified in using deadly force because they felt their own lives were in danger? Now, this is permissible under New York State law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTICE JOSEPH TERESI, NEW YORK SUPREME COURT: One who reasonably believes that another is about to use deadly physical force upon him need not wait until he is struck or shot. He may, in such circumstances, use deadly physical force defensively.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HINOJOSA: Yesterday in closing arguments, the prosecutors told the jurors to remain focused on Amadou Diallo and that he did nothing wrong to provoke the police.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC WARNER, PROSECUTOR: This poor man was in the vestibule of his own home. Yes, I repeat that constantly because that's a basic right. You can be there. You're home free. Your home is your castle, all the things that we've been taught.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HINOJOSA: Attorneys for the police officers are trying to remain optimistic and saying that because of the issue of justification in self-defense, they believe the jury will acquit the officers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENNET EPSTEIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: If the defensive justification has not been disproven by the prosecutor, then the verdict must be not guilty as to all accounts. That's the law of the state of New York.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HINOJOSA: Now, the word race did not come up during the closing argument, and very little throughout much of the trial. But outside of the courtroom, it's very much present. Behind me there is a rally going on, really all-white supporters of the police officers asking for them to be acquitted.

In about an hour, there's a scheduled demonstration to take place in the Bronx on the streets where Amadou Diallo was killed. That will more than likely be attended mostly by people of color in the Bronx.

All -- Natalie -- excuse me.

ALLEN: Maria, is anyone expecting trouble in the streets of New York depending on what the outcome is of this trial?

HINOJOSA: There has been talk about possible violence, but what's important to remember is that Kadiatou Diallo, Amadou's mother, has said more -- several times that she wants there to be calm, that she does not want her son's name to be tarnished by any possible violence. Reverend Al Sharpton, who has been a close supporter of the family, has said that as soon as the verdict comes in, he will go to the Bronx and ask for calm as well even though he will ask for demonstrations, if there's an acquittal, in front of the federal plaza -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Maria Hinojosa on the trial in Albany, thank you.

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