The timing of the verdict in the Sean Bell case (which, by the time you read this, will probably be handed down) puts the papers at a bit of a loss. There’s very little new “news” to report for today’s editions, but the event needs to be acknowledged. Add to it that the “VERDICT” issues of the papers will be Saturday editions that are traditionally lighter in the amount of content (and even tone in some cases), and there’s a conundrum: what do you cover when there’s no “real” news to report?
Both tabloids made different decisions in how to deal with the Bell case. The Post puts a small mention of the impending verdict all the way back on page 24. The conceit for the article is that Queens Supreme Court Justice Arthur Cooperman is known for his no-nonsense approach and that he rules with “AN IRON GAVEL.”
The Daily News, meanwhile, considers the Bell verdict the most important news of the day. There’s mention of it on the front page—albeit awkwardly under a photo hyping their review of the Tina Fey-Amy Poehler comedy Baby Mama—declaring today “JUDGMENT DAY.” The News then dedicates four full pages to the trial, including photos of all three suspects, a smiling Bell and his grieving parents and fiancée. There’s a recap of the key evidence in the shooting on page 4 that features several pictures. We get short news items on Kalua Cabaret’s decision to stay closed for most of the day to curb any protests or violence regarding the verdict and some John Jay college students who plan to protest no matter what the outcome of the trial is. Denis Hamill writes a column about how bizarre the prosecution in the case was, and he talks to several defense attorneys about the strange facts in the case. Yesterday the paper had an interview with Bell’s parents, today Xana O’Neill and Corky Siemaszko talk to Laura Harper Paultre, the mother of Nicole Paultre-Bell.
The News has doggedly pursued this story since the beginning, much in the same way it covered the Nixzmary Brown trial. It may be worth your four quarters to pick up today’s and tomorrow’s issues.