Posted April 9, 2008 – The intent of defense witness Alexander Jason was to refute prosecutors who argue that the detectives who shot Sean Bell on the eve of his wedding day two years ago were trigger-happy and had little regard for human life. But his testimony during the trial of NYPD Detectives Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper may have been damaging.
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"My finger was getting worn out," said Jason, a crime scene expert who tested the guns that killed Bell and seriously wounded Bell’s two friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield. "It took a lot of effort to pull that trigger."
The officers fired 50 times at the three unarmed young men in November 2006 as they left a bachelor party at a Queens strip club.
Jason noted that “NYPD weapons are calibrated in such a way to make them harder to pull – and thus avoid accidentally spraying dozens of bullets at a target,” The New York Daily News reported. "Each time you fired your weapon, you had to do so of your own volition?" prosecutor Peter Reese asked. "You had to squeeze a trigger each time?"
Answered Jason: "The gun performance doesn't change, but my finger performance was changing."
Reese contends that the sheer number of shots fired by Oliver, and the fact that he even paused to reload, makes it clear that the trio were out of control when they shot at Bell’s Nissan.
Jason also attempted to refute prosecutors claims that Benefield could not have been shot as he ran from Bell's car, saying it was unlikely based on the trajectory of the bullets. But, under cross-examination, he acknowledged that his findings were based in large part on the disputed calculations of NYPD crime scene investigators, the News reports.
"When you place things on your own little diagrams, you were not there," Reese said. "You had to rely on them to place things on your diagram."
Admitted Jason: "I did rely on upon the data provided to me to make my graphics. Yes."
The three detectives insist that they were staking out the Club Kalua for evidence of prostitution and fired on Bell, Guzman and Benefield because they thought one of Bell’s friends was reaching for his gun. They also say that they only fired after identifying themselves as police officers. No gun was ever found. Guzman testified earlier in the trial that the detectives, who wore plainclothes, never announced that they were police officers and that they began firing at them for no reason, as if they wanted them dead. Oliver and Isnora have been charged with manslaughter, felony assault and reckless endangerment. Cooper is on trial battling reckless endangerment charges.
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