Right-handed Bell says southpaw punch shows he didn't mean to inflict serious damage
|Shane M. Bell|
The videotaped police interview of defendant Shane Bell resumed after today's lunch break in his trial for alleged second-degree felony assault outside The Harvester bar around 9 p.m. in August.
The victim, 51-year-old Scott Baker, remains in the Genesee County Nursing Home since his release from Erie County Medical Center's Intensive Care Unit in which he was comatose for a couple of months.
The crux of the case is whether Bell intended to harm Baker as seriously as he did when the right-hander gave him a single southpaw punch to the temple. If he had wanted to inflict serious injury, he would have used his right hand, Bell told police.
In the videotape with Det. Pat Corona, Bell appears cooperative as he speaks in a somewhat herky-jerky fashion, with a gravelly voice, his English peppered with expletives.
When asked "What did Scott Baker do?" The answer is simply "He wanted to fight."
Bell left the bar to look for his lost car keys and says "I'm walking forward. He brushed me. Second touch -- that was it. I didn't know if he had a knife ... or what."
The interviewer and interviewee examine the latter's hands and arms for scratches and blood.
"Were you angry?" Corona asks.
"No. ... He had the balls to get up and I'm a quarter way across the room and he chest bumps me. Thought maybe it was a drunk bump, but then he followed me across the street," Bell says, finishing the statement with a slight shrug.
After the blow -- which caused the victim to buckle and fall, striking his head on the pavement -- Bell says "I tried to help him. That's why there's blood on my pants. I picked his head up (makes a cradling gesture). Made sure he was breathing. ... He went into shock is what it was."
When questioned about his familiarity with Baker, Bell says "I knew who he was" and that he ran into him maybe five times a year.
In the moments before the altercation, he said he thought "Somebody's fuckin' with me. ... He's playin' like he's gonna kick my ass -- walkin' across the street to me. Maybe I shoulda let him knock me down -- but at the time you don't think like that."
The clock in the police office reads 12:59 a.m. at the conclusion of the interview.
After the video ended, Bell's attorney, Billy Tedford, cross-examined Corona and asked if he had been to the scene prior to the interview ("yes") and if he saw Baker there ("no"). Baker had been transported to the hospital by then. Corona testified that he only spoke with other law enforcement personnel at the scene.
Bell's attorney elicited that Bell had already been given his Miranda warnings; he did not ask for an attorney; he spoke freely and was cooperative at police headquarters.
The People subsequently called Diane Baker, Scott's mother, to testify.
Under questioning from District Attorney Lawrence Friedman, she told the jurors that she first visited her seriously injured son two days after the incident and he was in a coma. She said she continued to visit him twice a week and that he came out of the coma in October and was transferred to the nursing home where he remains, hooked up to a feeding tube. She said that at no point has she been able to communicate with her son about the night in question.
She was not cross-examined.
The jury was dismissed early. The case resumes at 9:15 Wednesday morning and the doctor who treated Baker is slated to testify.
So its been established that the "victim" followed the defendant across the street. Seem to me that the "victim" obviously wanted some type of altercation. The defendant tried to "walk away" by leaving the bar to look for his lost keys, the "victim" followed him, seem to me this "victim" got what he was asking for.
I firmly believe in a persons right to defend themselves, if some drunk that i had previously asked to leave me alone, followed me across the street after i left the bar, he would get the same treatment. You dont follow someone that has asked you to leave them alone, unless you have bad intentions. Maybe the victims mother should have been cross examined and asked "Did you raise your son to respect the rights of others?" "Why do you think that your son would follow the defendant across the street after the defendant asked him to leave him alone?"
I don't know that that has been "established" at all Christopher. Just because the Defendant told the police that doesn't mean it is necessarily true.
They found the "victim" across the street. The officers on scene report that the altercation took place "across the street" The photos of the crime scene are across the street. Yep, established.
And in reply that the victim was intoxicated. He consumed the alcohol that got him in that condition. He paid for it, he consumed it, and he, and only he is responsible for his action while intoxicated. Intoxication is not an excuse for belligerent, aggressive, annoying, dangerous behavior. If and when he recovers, im pretty sure that he will have a whole different outlook on his actions that led up to the events. If he had respected the rights of others and left well enough alone when the defendant left the bar, he wouldnt be in his current condition. Nothing changes the fact that as a free human of this earth YOU are responsible for your actions. He made the choice to drink himself into oblivion, to follow someone that no one who has any sense would follow, and now he is paying the price for those actions. Its like saying "Oh i was drunk so i didnt realize it was a bad idea to drive" Your still getting charged with DWI. You still might kill someone on the road. Intoxication is not an excuse for poor behavior, its the cause.
The DA may have felt pressure to pursue the serious charge due to the severe nature of Mr. Baker's actual injury. Obviously Mr. Bell has knockout power and may have underestimated his strength. I'm inclined to believe that Mr. Bell intended to give Mr. Baker enough to engender second thoughts about going to hands with Mr. Bell. I doubt Mr. Bell intended to cause the serious injury to Mr. Baker and I particularly question how intent could be demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt. Mr. Bell exacted only a single blow, did not strike Mr. Baker while he was down, even helping Mr. Baker out afterward. If Mr. Bell's story is more or less corroborated, it'll be difficult to be very sympathetic to Mr. Baker under the circumstances. He apparently pursued Mr. Bell out of a historically rough location, across the street, was goading, put hands on Mr. Bell, etc. Mr. Bell did give the first (and only) punch, which may prove to be a mistake on his part, but his intent, from what I see, seems to have been to get Mr. Baker off his back.
I suspect this may be a case where the defendant's decision to speak with the police was wise. A jury probably suspects that a defense lawyer might spin a story for trial to put his client in the most positive light. I think the fact that Mr. Bell's story is on the record from the outset lends credibility to it, it's obvious that it's Mr. Bell's actual personal story and not something concocted after the fact. I suspect the prosecution may have serious trouble with its case, at least on the top charge, especially if the defense brings witnesses to confirm the less-than-sympathetic portrayal of Mr. Baker.
Christopher, If the victim was intoxicated at the time, which I would have to think would be the only reason anyone would try to pick a fight with Mr.Bell, that would explain the actions you commented on.
To say" he got what he was asking for" is a bit callous when considering the
victims present physical state.
A couple of things ...
First, you have my reporting and Billie's reporting on this. We obviously have every intent of factually recording what we observe in court. We are reporting what we think is important and hopefully we're presenting that accurately and in proper context. But it's still just how we're seeing the case and what we think is important.
From covering several jury trials in my career now, I've learned the jury doesn't always see things as I do.
Second, the trial is, at best, only half over. The jury is always instructed not to draw conclusions until they've heard all the evidence.
Also, each attorney will present an argument for how they view the fact pattern that is established makes a case for guilty or not guilty. It will be up to the jury to decide which argument is the most persuasive.
So, we'll see ...
Any number of factors could have led the victim across the street. Maybe he was leaving and Mr. Bell was following him, or even chasing him. Maybe as the fight escalated it moved across the street. I wasn't there and I'm assuming you weren't either Christopher. We shouldn't draw conclusions until all of the witnesses have been heard and all of the facts come out.