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Sharpton, the aide says, intended to go over Johnson's head. "What are you doing?" a befuddled Johnson aide reportedly asked one of the Diallo family lawyers. "You don't trust us? Why is Sharpton undermining us?"
"We don't know what Sharpton is doing, but we consider it wise to have this as an option," the lawyer responded. "Why are you taking it so personal?" Johnson allegedly banned the Diallo lawyers and Sharpton from future meetings between the parents and prosecutors who regularly briefed the family about the case.
The day before the trial started, prosecutors insisted on meeting only with Diallo's parents at the Marriott Hotel in Albany. "No other family members. No lawyers. No advisers," a Sharpton aide recalls. "It was interpreted in Diallo family circles that they were still pissed off about the Washington trip." Sharpton bristled at Johnson's alleged attempt to isolate the advisers. "The prosecution's briefing on how they planned to handle the case would be known only to Saikou and Kadiatou Diallo, who really didn't understand the American legal system," the aide says.
But the Diallos stepped out of the fray, telling their advisers they wanted to hear what prosecutors had to say. "When they came back," says the aide, "they said that the prosecution was confident they could win, and outlined how they were going to present the evidence." During jury selection, Sharpton and Cannick privately sharpened their criticism of the prosecution for not immediately pointing out to the judge that defense attorneys were trying to have jurors removed based on race. "Reverend Sharpton began to wonder whether prosecutors would go for the jugular or just put up a 'presentable case,' " the aide says. "Rev saw that the defense was trying to knock all the blacks off the jury and that prosecutors wasn't saying anything about it in open court. That's when he called a press conference and blasted the defense lawyers for being biased. By Reverend Sharpton raising a stink, four blacks got on the jury. The judge was forced to back up because Rev called the jury selection racist."
As testimony got under way, Sharpton and lawyers for the family felt that prosecutors should put Mrs. Diallo on the witness stand to explain what Amadou meant to her. "Everyone knows how magnetic she is," an aide assserts. "She would have won the hearts of the jury, but the prosecutors did nothing to humanize Amadou. This whole thing about him being an immigrant and a peddler played into the anti-immigrant feelings of people in Albany." Johnson rebuffed the suggestion to call Mrs. Diallo, and told the advisers to back off. "The prosecutors said that they did not want their case influenced by lawyers who had a monetary interest or by Al Sharpton who had a political interest," the Sharpton aide remembers.
After all of this, not calling Johnson was out of the question as far as Sharpton was concerned. The minister demanded to speak to the D.A. after the attorney for Officer Carrollthe cop who broke into tears as he testifiedargued that Diallo's body was not tampered with after he was shot. According to an aide, Sharpton suggested to Johnson that prosecutors trip up that defense argument this way: "The logical thing to have asked is, 'Didn't Sean Carroll's attorney in his opening statement say that Carroll had in fact intended to give CPR to Amadou? He had to move the body to try to give him CPR. So why wouldn't the prosecution in their redirect come back with that so the jury can be reminded of what was said?' "
Johnson reportedly thanked Sharpton for making a "good point," adding that he wanted to think about it. "He never said whether he would talk to them or not, which might have been strategic," the aide says.
It was only on the second day of jury deliberation that Johnson finally showed his face in the Albany courtrooma move his critics now believe signaled that his strategy was in trouble.
Additional reporting: Danielle Douglas
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