(4 of 5)
As for those senatorial wannabes, Hillary Clinton and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, both played to type earlier in the tragedy. She called the killing a murder. He lashed out at those who criticized the cops, calling the demonstrations silly, and saw his mayoral approval rating plummet. After the verdict last week, Giuliani reached out to the Diallo family but spent as much energy calling on angry citizens to "put their prejudices and biases aside. We have racism in New York...We also have a vicious form of antipolice bias." The First Lady, who had already apologized for the murder remark, was more cautious in her reaction. She asked people "to strive for a better understanding of the incredible risk police face," and for police and citizens "to treat each other with mutual respect." Her remarks seemed to be aimed at avoiding further controversy, while Giuliani, who has been taking heat from this case for a year, was ready to keep taking it. Clinton will probably face growing pressure from liberal supporters to push for the Justice Department's prosecution of the officers on civil rights charges. Giuliani contended that the case did not warrant such a trial, and some observers said the verdict got Giuliani out of a tight spot, since now he can defend the entire jury system instead of just the police.
Who lost the trial? Most critics point to Bronx district attorney Robert Johnson. For one thing, Johnson, who is African American, chose not to assign any blacks to the prosecution team, which probably meant a less passionate presentation of the case. Race was never articulated as an issue at the trial, even though its presence was pervasive. Prosecutors backed off the defendants when they stood by their stories and appeared remorseful; the government also failed to press key points, including the possibility that Carroll was actually within the vestibule when the shooting started. More than a case lost, however, the trial was won. Defense attorneys had deftly kept their clients from testifying to the grand jury, depriving the prosecution of testimony to mull over until the witnesses actually got to the stand. Carroll's testimony dovetailed with Judge Joseph Teresi's four-hour instruction to the jury of seven white men, four black women and one white woman. He told them they must acquit a defendant if they believed he reasonably but mistakenly thought he had to use deadly force in response to a threat. After 21 hours of actual deliberation, the jury came down on the side of the police. The Justice Department, which has been monitoring the Diallo case from its inception, said it would look into civil rights violations, though most observers believe it will be hard to fault Teresi's court.