Nel's New Day

December 3, 2014

White Entitlement Filmed in New York – No Indictment in Eric Garner’s Killing

Filed under: Racism — trp2011 @ 8:47 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Eric Garner was killed on July 19, 2014, in Staten Island (NY), just 23 days before Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson (MO). A video taken by a witness shows Garner in an illegal chokehold, repeating eleven times, “I can’t breathe.” The medical examiner ruled his death a “homicide by “chokehold” through compression of the neck and chest. Today, nine days after a grand jury refused to indict Brown’s killer, another grand jury failed to indict Garner’s killer, New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo, despite the evidence that Garner’s death broke both the law and came from a procedure banned by the city police department. Without an indictment, Pantaleo will most likely not face a public trial unless he is charged by federal or other authorities.

NYPD guidelines banned chokeholds in 1993, but many people have lodged complaints against the police department since then for continuing to use them. Over 1,000 complaints about NYPD’s use of chokeholds were registered between 2009 and 2013. Pantaleo has been sued twice for harassing people during arrests over the past two years; a 2012 case was settled for $30,000 when Pantaleo and other officers were accused of strip-searching two men.

The police approached the 43-year-old Garner after he helped break up a fight on a busy Staten Island street. He said, “I did nothing. I’m just here minding my own business, officer. … Please, just leave me alone!” Wearing cargo shorts and a baseball hat, Pantaleo, 29, came up behind him and put him in a chokehold. Garner never resisted arrest and wasn’t even told that he was being arrested. Three other police officers handcuffed him. Garner was unconscious within seconds and dead within minutes. The EMT’s called to the scene did not administer oxygen or try to resuscitate Garner.

garner from backGarner’s offense was the possibility that he was selling untaxed “loose” cigarettes. Police crackdowns on this offense have overwhelmingly been against blacks and Latinos. Unlike the case of Michael Brown, the grand jury was able to see a video from Ramsey Orta, eliminating conflicting eyewitness accounts. Orta was arrested, and Patrick Lynch, head of the biggest NYC police union, accused Orta of “demonizing good police work.” A grand jury did manage one indictment in the case—Ramsey Orta. According to police claims, the man who filmed police officers killing put an unloaded .25 caliber handgun into the waistband of 17-year-old Alba Lekaj. No fingerprints were found on the gun, and prosecutors are waiting for DNA tests on the weapon.

Gretchen Carlson, Fox News anchor, expressed deep concern about the outcome of the grand jury. She hoped that protests against the decision would not affect the Rockefeller Center tree lighting ceremony. Fox legal commentator Arthur Aidala claimed that Garner was not really choked, that the police used a “seat belt maneuver” to take him to the ground.


Another “expert” spoke out about the case. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) knows that the police did not kill Garner. He said that Garner died because he was so “obese” that he had asthma and a heart condition. The chokehold had nothing to do with his death, according to King. He also said that Garner could not have repeated “I can’t breathe,” because “if you can’t breathe, you can’t talk.”

Other members of New York’s congressional delegation, including Reps. Hakeem Jeffries and Charlie Rangel, did ask for the Department of Justice to investigate Garner’s killing. New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand also called for an investigation. Late this afternoon, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the DoJ would start a federal civil rights investigation regarding Garner’s death.

The grand jury surrounding Garner’s killing has appalling parallels to the one covering Michael Brown’s death. Just as Wilson described how he killed Brown, Pantaleo talked about killing Garner because DA Daniel Donovan brought Pantaleo in front of the grand jury to testify with no cross-examination. In most grand juries, prosecutors present only select evidence to establish “probable cause” for an indictment; the potential defendant is by definition the prosecutor’s legal adversary.

Jason Leventhal, former Staten Island assistant district attorney said:

“It’s very challenging for a local prosecutor, who oftentimes wins elections with the support of local police officers, and works very closely with local police officers each and every day, to bring a case against a cop. The internal pressures that a local prosecutor receives from their brothers in law enforcement – these are their partners working together everyday, so it creates a very challenging environment for a prosecutor to seek and indictment, let alone a conviction, of a police officer.”

Pantaleo spoke in front of the grand jury for two hours on November 21. Stuart London, Pantaleo’s attorney said, “He was gratified to tell his story, he was relieved.” DA Robert McCulloch gave Darren Wilson four hours to tell his personal story to the Missouri grand jury with no cross-examination.

In both cases, neither evidence nor testimony was subject to cross-examination or hostile scrutiny.  Typically prosecutors get an indictment from grand juries if they wish. Marjorie Cohn, a criminal defense attorney and professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, wrote, “[When] the prosecutor handled the Wilson case in a radically different manner, this signaled to the grand jurors that they were not expected to indict. And they did not.” The same thing happened with the Garner grand jury. By presenting a large quantity of information to the grand jury, both DAs felt free to say that it wasn’t their fault because they put all the evidence in front of the grand jury.

Since Darren Wilson was not indicted for killing Michael Brown in Ferguson (MO), President Obama promised $75 million to purchase 50,000 body cameras for police officers. At this time, only 70,000 of the more than 630,000 police officers in the nation wear body cameras. The lack of indictment for Pantaleo demonstrates that the problem may be grand juries and district attorneys, not the lack of cameras. Clearly, he used an illegal chokehold to kill Garner, but there was no indictment against him. Over 20 years ago, the same thing happened with handheld video footage of the savage beating of Rodney King: police abuse and brutality on camera may not lead to convicting abusive cops.



  1. This case, like all the others, breaks my heart. The cops had no legitimate reason to lay a finger on this husband and father of six.


    Comment by Jackie Saulmon Ramirez — December 4, 2014 @ 5:47 AM | Reply

  2. Was just looking at Reuters news feed on this and the uproar in NY 😦


    Comment by Heather's Starting End — December 4, 2014 @ 12:15 AM | Reply

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