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Thread: 'Conviction in shooting barrage overturned',

  1. #1
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    Washington Island, across Death's Door, Wisconsin, USA

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    Conviction in shooting barrage overturnedNew trial ordered in attempted murder case against Stratford manBy MICHAEL P. MAYKO
    Staff writerArticle Last Updated:10/25/2008 12:19:10 AM EDT

    HARTFORD -- It was dark. A gang of men, dressed like thugs, carrying guns, were inside.

    John Bell, a 55-year-old truck driver from Stratford, thought Buzz's Mobil Station on Bridgeport's East Main Street, where he worked a second job, was being robbed. So he pulled his gun.

    More than 17 shots were fired.

    And Bell, who was shot twice, was convicted last summer by a federal court jury of attempting to kill Trumbull Police Detective Scott Murray, a member of the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, when he fired on Murray, missing both his shots.

    All that was too much for Senior U.S. District Judge Alfred V. Covello, who on Friday overturned Bell's June conviction on three federal charges that could have landed him in prison for at least 10 years.

    "It is apparent that this event would never have occurred but for the task force's imprudent decision to allow no less than nine officers, eight of whom were clad in casual, thug-like street clothing, to descend upon Buzz's in Bridgeport, at night, at closing time with guns drawn," Covello wrote.

    "Members of the task force had conducted surveillance on the property earlier that day, and were aware that only two employees were on the premises, neither of whom were the subject of the alleged gambling investigation."
    Covello blamed himself, the jury's apparent misunderstanding of evidence and the task force's conduct as the reasons behind his 18-page ruling.

    "Upon careful review of the record and evidence in this case, the court concludes that the jury's guilty verdicts are so against the weight of evidence that permitting them to stand would amount to manifest injustice," the judge wrote. "The court has a real concern that an innocent person may have been convicted." Still, Covello stopped short of granting a request by John Robert Gulash, Bell's lawyer, to fully acquit the defendant. Instead, Covello ordered Bell be retried on charges of attempting to murder a federal officer, impeding and assaulting the officer, and using a gun to commit the crime.

    All of this stemmed from a chaotic series of events that began shortly before 8:30
    p.m. on Oct. 1, 2007, at Buzz's Mobil Gas Station, on East Main Street in Bridgeport.
    The task force was prepared to serve a search-and-seizure warrant on the gas station seeking gambling records it could link to the owner and his son, Joseph Buzzanca Sr. and Jr., both of Nuthatch Hill Road, Trumbull. Neither were present during the raid. Both eventually faced state gambling charges that were dropped.
    The task force entered the cramped office with the precision of a military commando team. Members grabbed Fernando Lemus, an employee standing in a doorway, patted him down and passed him off to another officer for removal. Murray, the Trumbull detective and a member of the task force, entered the office with his gun drawn, identified himself as a police officer and ordered Bell to show his hands, records indicate.

    Bell, 55, of Ridge Road, Stratford, who worked a second job at the station for 16 years, pulled his hand out from his clothing, revealing a revolver, and a gunfight ensued.

    "There is not competent, satisfactory and sufficient evidence that proves beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense," the judge wrote.
    Covello noted that Murray was wearing a sleeveless muscle shirt, brown baseball cap that read "What's up dog, life is good"; blue jeans, black boots, black gloves, a bulletproof vest with "Police" printed on the front and back, and his police badge on a chain around his neck.

    "The evidence strongly suggests that Bell was unclear as to the identity of the officers due to their potentially confusing street clothing," the judge noted. "The evidence further suggests that Bell fired his gun in reaction to the shots fired by Murray, in an act of self-defense, before he understood the true nature of what was happening, or the true identity of the people confronting him.

    Covello conceded that "upsetting a jury verdict and granting a new trial is permitted only in the most extraordinary circumstances, and that granting such motions is disfavored in this circuit."

    "We're gratified by this well-reasoned, thoughtful decision," Gulash said Friday. "The judge obviously spent a long time researching and crafting it."

    Bell is free on bond. No date for a new trial was set.

  2. #2
    Regular Member MetalChris's Avatar
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    Jul 2007
    SW Ohio

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    Score one for the good guys!

  3. #3
    Campaign Veteran deepdiver's Avatar
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    Apr 2007
    Southeast, Missouri, USA

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    So the state threatened disinterested, uninvolved 3rd parties with death to seize the records of an alleged non-violent gambling operation?

    Judge sound like he has some common sense. Breathe of fresh air compared to most jurists. Would have been even fresher if he had just acquitted the man.
    Bob Owens @ Bearing Arms (paraphrased): "These people aren't against violence; they're very much in favor of violence. They're against armed resistance."

  4. #4
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    Granite State of Mind

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    deepdiver wrote:
    So the state threatened disinterested, uninvolved 3rd parties with death to seize the records of an alleged non-violent gambling operation?

    Judge sound like he has some common sense. Breathe of fresh air compared to most jurists. Would have been even fresher if he had just acquitted the man.
    The War On Non-Violent Free Enterprise has many fronts.

    Agreed, agreed, and agreed.

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