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Discrepancies in Howard Beach Testimony Told

December 01, 1987|United Press International

NEW YORK — Two detectives who investigated a racial attack pointed out major discrepancies Monday in a black man's recollection of the events leading to his friend's death on a Queens highway.

The detectives testified about statements they took from Cedric Sandiford, 37, shortly after he and two other black men were allegedly attacked by several white youths in the Howard Beach section of Queens last December.

Four white youths are accused of chasing one of the black men, Michael Griffith, 23, to his death on the Belt Parkway in the predominantly white neighborhood.

Symbol of Racial Strife

The emotionally charged incident has become a symbol of racial strife and the case has received extensive coverage.

The judge presiding over the murder-manslaughter trial, however, ruled Monday that cameras will not be allowed in the courtroom, despite an experimental program that begins today in New York, because the prosecution already has rested.

State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Demakos said that allowing news cameras in the courtroom midway through the trial could unfairly represent the defense's side. The prosecution already has rested.

The police officers, Detective Robert Howell and Sgt. Harold Knorr, testified that Sandiford told them that he saw Griffith run down 156th Avenue and slip through a hole in a fence alongside the Belt Parkway.

Sandiford then ducked through the hole and moments later heard a "boom," the detectives testified he told them in two separate interviews.

Conflict With Testimony

Those statements--that Griffith was chased down 156th Avenue in the moments before he ran onto the parkway--conflict with testimony given by the star prosecution witness.

The witness, Robert Riley, testified that Griffith was chased down 90th Street, a tunnel-like street that offers no escape but to flee onto the parkway.

More recent statements by Sandiford, however, bolstered Riley's account. Sandiford took the witness stand at the trial and testified that he never saw Griffith go through the fence and never heard the sound of his body being struck by a car.

Defense lawyers have accused Sandiford of tailoring his statements to strengthen the prosecution's case.

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