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Last Updated: Monday, 25 February 2008, 18:52 GMT
NY police trial for groom's death
Sean Bell with fiancée Nicole Paultre
Police fired a barrage of nearly 50 shots into Mr Bell's car
Three New York detectives have gone on trial over the shooting of an unarmed black man just hours before he was to marry the mother of his two children.

The three officers fired nearly 50 shots at 23-year-old Sean Bell's car as he left a strip club on his stag night.

Michael Oliver and Gescard Isnora have denied manslaughter, while Marc Cooper has denied reckless endangerment.

The killing on 25 November 2006 sparked street protests and accusations of racism against the city's police.

Three of the officers involved that night were black and two were white. Two of Mr Bell's friends, both black, were injured in the shooting.

'Out of control'

Assistant District Attorney Charles Testagrossa, prosecuting, said in his opening statement what happened could not be explained "as a mere accident or mistake", the Associated Press news agency reported.

Nicole Paultre Bell, and her children, Jordyn, one, (L) and Jada, five pictured this month
I need to know why this happened, my family deserves to know
Nicole Paultre Bell
Sean Bell's fiancee

But Mr Isnora's lawyer told the court there was evidence Mr Bell had been drunk and "out of control" when he left the club, according to AP.

Mr Isnora was the first to shoot and is accused of firing a total of 11 bullets.

Mr Oliver is accused of firing 31 of the nearly 50 bullets aimed at Mr Bell and his two friends.

The policemen have said Mr Bell's car hit an unmarked police vehicle and the officers thought someone in his car was reaching for a gun. No weapon was found.

The police officers, all granted bail, were conducting an undercover investigation at the nightclub in the Queens district of New York.

Queens County Supreme Court Judge Arthur Cooperman is hearing the case by himself, without a jury.

Mr Bell's fiancee, Nicole Paultre Bell, is due to give evidence.

She said before the case began: "I need to know why this happened, my family deserves to know."

Mr Oliver and Mr Isnora face a possible 25 years in jail. Mr Cooper, who is accused of firing four shots, could spend up to a year in jail.

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