Sunday, March 08, 2009

Justice for Vega and Rosario?

Tomorrow Morning at 9:00 am, the detectives, Patrick J. Brosnan and James Crowe who shot and killed Hilton Vega and Anthony Rosario in 1995 will be in court for the third day of their civil trial for wrongful death. The plaintiffs in the case are Vega's and Rosario's mothers. The Bronx-based Justice Committee encourages people to pack the court-room to show support for the families:
This Thursday, the civil trial will begin for the killings of Anthony Rosario and Hilton Vega by two NYPD officers. The trial will be held in Bronx Civil Court and we NEED to fill the courtroom starting Monday, March 9th at 9am - 4pm.

The reason that they went to the civil trial option was that despite the report by the New York Civilian Complaint Review Board that found the shooting an example of excessive force, the city did nothing to punish the officers involved. In fact, shortly after this critical report came out, Giuliani attacked the CCRB itself, leading to the resignation of its director, Hector Soto, who said they forced him out because he refused to defer to the police department. The case became an example of the complete unaccountability of New York City cops. According to the NYCLU, the CCRB is still failing to fulfill its mission because of police obstructionism.

I learned most of what I know about this case about eight years ago when I saw the film Justifiable Homicide. (read the NYT review here). What I found most interesting at the time was that the organizing done by Rosario's mother played such a big role in creating the massive protest movement that arose around the police-shooting of Amadou Diallo. Not only does the film show that the police shootings were unjustified, but it also reveals the power of collective action.
The movement led to independent investigations of the shootings and reports done by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. When I mentioned this trial to someone last night he was aghast to realize that the two officers had not been tried before for these crimes which were deemed, as the movie title says, "Justifiable Homicide" by a Bronx grand-jury in 1995. I hope that the civil trial come to a different conclusion.

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