February 9 - Yesterday's testimony was devastating to the defense. The coroner testified that the one of the first bullets severed Diallo's spine, which would have made him fall immediately. Several of the bullets hit Diallo as he was falling, and at least three hit him while he was lying on the ground. One went through the bottom of his foot.
The weather was nice today so the protesters were out in full force. About 20 were talking in the park and the rest were gathered around The Pen. Up until now the mood of the protesters has been 90% somber and 10% pissed. Today most of the tension is gone. The conversation in the park was full of laughter and sounded just like a backyard barbecue.
The defense started presenting their side today. One of their first witnesses evidently changed her story on the stand, resulting in the defense asking permission to treat their own witness as hostile. This provided considerable fuel for the Big Al Lunchtime Show. He said her story was constant with the prosecution's story, and asked if someone should be considered hostile if their lawyers don't like their testimony. The situation provided him with his exit joke: "I have to go now, I'm going to go pray for the next three witnesses."
There were almost as many people in the park (about eighty) as there were the first day of the protests. Rather than take the stage, Al just went to the front of the crowd and led them in a round of the Amen song, then said a prayer. Two photographers used the stage to get a better angle for their videos. After the prayer the crowd broke for lunch, leaving the park nearly empty.
February 10 - On my way to The Pen a tall black cop was coming toward me, walking by himself with a smile on his face. Suddenly he broke into a loud laugh for no apparent reason. We took a few more steps toward each other and then I could hear the radio chatter. He spoke into the microphone on his collar, saying "That's a good one Floyd, a real good one." The same thing wouldn't have happened the first week of the trial, but now the cops all seem comfortable in their routine and are almost casual as they stand around observing everyone. The officer stationed behind the courthouse was sitting in his car reading a paperback book.
About half the tripods in The Pen had cameras on them when someone announced "they're breaking for lunch." Within minutes all the cameras were in place, aimed at the courthouse, but nothing happened. Gradually, most of the press people gave up and wandered off.
There were about thirty protesters gathered today. No sign of Al, but someone led a prayer, again avoiding the stage, and then the group broke up for lunch.
I was standing outside The Pen, smoking a little cigarette-sized cigar when a pretty woman approached me and asked if I was a journalist. When I told her I wasn't she asked if I'd mind answering a few questions that had nothing to do with the trial. I said "sure." She wanted my opinions on the New York State cigarette tax increase. Now, ask my opinion on most subjects and I'll give you enough commentary to fill a page, maybe two, but ask me anything about tobacco and I'll spew a book. She was writing as quickly as she could, just putting a few lines on each page of a palm-sized notebook before flipping to the next page. I think she used up most of her notebook before she thanked me and walked away.
I must have been looking rather reporterly, because as she walked away a man in his early sixties, who had wandered into The Pen unnoticed, looked at me over the barrier and asked me if I was a reporter. I said no, but pointed out the woman I had just been talking to and suggested he go talk to her. "No, I've already talked to her. I think I did. I don't remember faces. I remember injustice, though. I can see injustice, just not faces. I can spot injustice miles away. I see injustice in all colors. I see red, white and blue. I just don't remember faces." All the while he was looking next to me, as if he were addressing someone invisible standing there. No wonder he had trouble remembering faces.
I'd been visiting the area for lunch only, but today someone told me there was going to be a pro-police rally at the end of the day, so I went up after work to check it out. The lawyers for the defense came out and claimed everything was going wonderfully for them. When they finished the reporters and camera operators turned their attention to the folks who were "protesting" in support of the police. They weren't in the area set aside for protesters, instead picking a spot a little closer to The Pen. There were exactly six of them, and they were all white.
They had the most professional signs I've seen so far. Red lettering on glossy cardstock proclaimed "Freedom is Never Free." Small print at the bottom identified the source of the signs as The Gun Owners of America, and included their URL. One protester was holding up a very large sign. Everyone else in the group was waving smaller ones mounted on sticks. Another dozen of the smaller signs, also attached to sticks, were propped up against the fence in case anyone else wanted one. No one did.
The reporters took turns interviewing the woman in the center of the group, getting in close for a tight shot that would no doubt make it look like there were more than six people attending. She was very calm and well spoken as she told interviewers she and her friends were there to express their support and appreciation for the police and to let them know citizens are happy they're out there doing their job. "Without them," she said, "we wouldn't be able to go shopping or go for a walk without worrying about our safety." When asked about the guilt or innocence of the officers on trial she said she was happy to let the jury make that decision. Several camera crews waited politely in line for their turn to interview her.
Court will not be in session on Friday.
Unfortunately, folks, this is probably the last Diallo report for The Hittman Chronicle. I was doing this on my lunch hour, walking from my place of business to the park to see what was going on. On Friday I was laid off. As a result I won't be in downtown Albany around lunchtime, so won't be able to continue these reports. Instead I'll be devoting my time and effort to finding a new job. If I find one soon, in the same area, perhaps these reports will continue. But that's not all that likely.
As expected, it's been fun and I've learned a lot. Being an eyewitness to something, writing about it and then seeing what other people write about it has been enlightening. I've seen crowds of a hundred people described as three hundred and groups of barely thirty protesters described as a hundred. Other than that, most of the reports and columns and commentaries have been accurate.
The biggest surprise is the lack of local media people on the scene. National stories don't hit Albany very often, but the only local reporter I've seen there day after day is Judy Sanders. She's been there every time I have, and I haven't seen any of the other local TV reporters even once. Plenty of stations from NYC are spending an enormous amount of money to have their reporters and photographers down here, all for a sound bite that might only last a few minutes. Yet of the four local stations, only WRGB seems to think it's important enough to give it full coverage.
If you've enjoyed this feature, please let me know what you liked best about it. If you despised this feature, please let me know why you've read this far.
(Note: This was not quite the last installment. Read The Verdict for the final wrap-up of the saga.)
| Jury Selection | The Trial Begins | The Prosecution Finishes | The Defense Begins | The Verdict |
© 2000 Dave Hitt
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