Nel's New Day

September 3, 2019

Courts Still Help ‘We the People’

August may be a time for Congress and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to take a hiatus, but the courts keep chugging along. Here are a few highlights:

Voting:

Today, North Carolina’s state court ruled the GOP legislative gerrymandering unconstitutional and gave specific guidelines to the GOP state legislature in redrawing the lines within two weeks by September 18. Other gerrymandered states such as Wisconsin, Maryland, and Texas could follow the same directions.

Mississippi shows how bad gerrymandering can be. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court ruling forcing the legislature to redraw the 102-mile-long state Senate District 22 spanning parts of six countries. The districting, done in 2012, diluted black voter strength to re-elect a Republican. Multiple voting machines in nine counties during last week’s Mississippi election switched votes and kept voters from their choices during a gubernatorial runoff race. The machines preferred Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves who won the runoff with 54 percent of the vote. At a Las Vegas convention, attendees as young as 11 were able to hack into voting machines, and at least ten states have made remote hacking easier by connecting computers to the internet. 

Paperless voting machines are another GOP way of controlling the vote, and a federal district court judge ordered Georgia to stop using paperless voting machines after 2019. For 2020, Georgia must either use paper ballots filled out with a pen and then fed into an optical scanner or voting machines that print a paper ballot record. Election officials must also fix errors in the state’s voter registration database and provide paper backups for the electronic poll books at each polling place, used to track whether a registered voter has cast a ballot or not when a voter shows up on Election Day. Employees of the firm that manufactured Georgia’s current paperless voting machines left them open to hacking by designing electronic ballots from their home offices rather than in a secure location. The ruling is the first to block use of paperless voting machines, also used in a dozen other states. Earlier this year, the state gave a $107 million contract for “ballot-marking devices,” machines that print a bar code and a text summary of individual votes. The bar code, which voters cannot read, is used for tallying votes, not the text summary. The lawsuit began when Brian Kemp, the Republican in charge of voting, was “elected” governor last year after evidence of security failings was destroyed. Like Kemp, his successor opposes paper ballots. 

The 7th Circuit Court supported a lower court in rejecting a 2017 Indiana law allowing election officials to cancel a voter’s registration without the voter’s confirmation. By using Interstate Crosscheck, faulty computer software checking a database of 24 states, the state got rid of Democratic registrations. The National Voter Registration Act requires that states cannot remove voters from rolls without a “reasonable effort.” The judge said that “the only way to know whether voters want to cancel their registration is to ask them.”

Ohio’s aggressive voter removal process has also been temporarily settled when the state agreed that all eligible voters removed through 2019 may cast provisional ballots in any local, state, special, or federal election through 2022 which are counted. Doing this will restore voters to the rolls. Ohio failed to provide proper notice to voters whose registration was in jeopardy and now must notify non-registered eligible voters of the settlement with the deadline for registering and tell boards of elections to use motor vehicle records to determine if voters still live where they registered. After the settlement, the Ohio Democratic Party sued to keep over 200,000 voters from being removed on September 6.

With Texas facing the possibility of turning purple, emails show that Gov. Greg Abbott (R) led the effort to purge thousands of voters from state election rolls although former Secretary of State David Whitley got the blame and resigned. A federal court stopped the purge of almost 100,000 people wrongfully identified as non-citizens. Texas tries to keep Texas voters white and GOP through restrictive voter ID laws, barriers to earlier voting, and difficulties in casting ballots, efforts overturned a half-dozen times in the past few years. Texas conservatives also hire people to sit outside driver license offices and register people after screening them with the question of whether they want “less government and less taxes” or “more government and more taxes.” Last year, Democrats flipped two congressional seats, and gained 12 in the Texas House and two in the Texas Senate.

Other:

In Maryland, a district court ruled that transgender military service members have legal standing to sue for their rights. DDT cannot block judicial review of his trans military ban.  

A U.S. district court judge in Michigan permitted a challenge to DDT’s Muslim Ban that bars immigration and travel from identified predominantly Muslim countries. The judge supported the claim of unconstitutional religious discrimination, writing that “the Plaintiffs present sufficient evidence that the Proclamation is unable to be explained by anything but animus towards Muslims.”

An Oklahoma judge ruled that drugmaker Johnson & Johnson helped fuel the opioid epidemic through its marketing of powerful painkillers and ordered the company to pay $572.1 million in damages. The decision is the first in approximately 2,000 state and local lawsuits against health care companies pushing opioids. Oklahoma stated that J&J was “at the root of the crisis” and created a “public nuisance.” Earlier this year, the state settled claims against Purdue for $270 million and Teva for $85 million. The wealthy Sacklers family, who made their fortune from Purdue Pharma’s oxycontin, may keep most of their money by selling the company to avoid a federal $10 billion to $12 billion settlement.

A federal judge temporarily blocked a Missouri law banning abortions after eight weeks with no exceptions for rape and incest. Courts blocked similar laws in Mississippi and Kentucky earlier this year. A federal judge also blocked Ohio’s so-called “heartbeat law” that would ban abortions as early as six weeks before women know that they are pregnant.   

Taylor Dumpson, the first black woman to serve as student government president at American University in Washington, D.C., was awarded $725,000 from a massive “troll storm” against her by Andrew Anglin, founder of neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer, Andrew Anglin, and follower Brian Ade, who failed to appear in court. Anglin, who fled the U.S., has also been ordered to pay $14 million to Tanya Gersh, a Jewish Montana real estate agent who he harassed, and $4.1 million to Muslim comedian Dean Obeidallah after falsely accusing him of involvement in the May 2017 terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. Eight months ago, another defendant, Eugene (OR) actor and musician Evan McCarty, settled after an apology to Dumpson and publicly renouncing white supremacy, completing 200 hours of community service at a racial justice organization, and finishing “anti-hate” training.

A judge invalidated the Treasury Department’s permission to IRS to conceal the identity of donors who contributed over $5,000 to nonprofits during one year. The IRS violated the law by not having the required notice and comment period.

In Arizona, a state court of appeals ruled that people in the state have a constitutional right to online privacy from police who don’t have a warrant based on appearance of criminal activity because Internet users have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” for information about themselves furnished to internet providers based on the state constitution. The decision conflicts with federal court rulings that people give up privacy when they give information to third parties and are no longer protected against unreasonable search and seizure in the Fourth Amendment.

Despite federal attempts to open all public land to mining, drilling, and housing developments, a federal judge blocked construction of a huge open-pit copper mine in Arizona’s Coronado National Forest considered ancestral sacred burial sites for the Hopi, Tohono O’odham, and Pascua Yaqui tribes. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, former lobbyist for the copper company, wanted to give his friends this land as well as another place near the border for a 70,000-person housing development destroying the San Pedro, one of the Southwest’s last free-flowing rivers. The current project, near Benson, is back on after the federal government issued permits. People are waiting to see if the government will close a uranium mine near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon contaminating groundwater with radioactive waste.

The 11th Circuit Court ruled that feeding the homeless is “expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment” and sent a lawsuit back to a lower court to see if a city ordinance violates those rights. In 2014, after Fort Lauderdale (FL) required a permit to share food in public parks, police arrested a 90-year-old man (left) and two ministers who gave food to homeless people. 

A federal judge dismissed a $250-million libel lawsuit against the Washington Post filed by Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann after he received negative media attention from his behavior in Washington, DC while attending a pro-life march. The filing called the reporting false and defamatory; the judge called it constitutionally protected. Sandmann’s dad, Ted, plans to appeal.

After New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose chokehold killed the unarmed Eric Garner in 2014 while other police officers watched, was exonerated last summer, outrage built, and a police administrative judge found Pantaleo guilty of violating a department ban on chokeholds. The tragedy was resolved with Pantaleo was fired and stripped of his pension benefits. Garner had cried out “I can’t breathe” eleven times until he stopped breathing. Garner had been accused of selling untaxed cigarettes.

One recent decision is questionable and could throw the nation into chaos. The 10th Circuit Court has ruled that representatives for the Electoral College are not required to vote in accord with the popular vote of their states. The lawsuit came after seven of the electors went “rogue” in the 2016 election. If that decision were left to stand, 538 individual people would be the only ones to vote for the president of the United States. The ruling covers six Western states unless it is overturned by an en banc decision or the Supreme Court. 

July 21, 2019

Religion Eliminates Human Rights

Thanks to the Republicans’ need for “religious freedom,” your house could burn down if firefighters disagree with your “moral” or “religious” beliefs. Or paramedics could decide not to save your life. Texas legislation protects “religious liberty and moral convictions” of individuals and businesses by allowing them to follow their religious or moral conviction. SB1978 came after a vote by the San Antonio City Council to block Chick-fil-a’s restaurant at the city-owned airport because of the company’s discrimination against LGBTQ people. The Federal Aviation Administration is now investigating the company’s exclusion at U.S. airports.

The protection of Chick-fil-a comes from the Congressional Prayer Caucus’s Project Blitz guidelines of 20 policy templates from establishing “In-God-We-Trust” options for license plates to eliminating adoption opportunities for LGBTQ people and criminalizing abortion. Fundamentalist Christianity is now blocking women from reproductive rights in red states throughout the nation. States are criminalizing abortions, arrested practitioners for murder, in Alabama even the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest.

An Alabama woman whose fetus was killed in a shooting was indicted for manslaughter because the fetus didn’t survive. She didn’t fire the shot, but officials declared that she started the fight when another woman shot her. The shooter was not indicted, but the victim faced 20 years in prison until the case was dropped. Many people in Alabama still want the woman in prison because of their Christian “personhood” beliefs. 

Led by two prominent Southern Baptist congressional representatives, the Prayer Caucus playbook includes lies about LGBTQ disease, mental health, “moral instabilities,” and pedophilia as well as falsely equating support of transgender children expression with child abuse. According to their beliefs, only married heterosexual couples should be able to adopt children—sometimes only conservative Christians and not even Catholics. These people are getting their way through executive orders and laws.

Sixty “religious liberty” laws in 31 states were passed in 2017 and 2018, and the DHS Office of Civil Rights created the Conscience and Religious Freedom Unit, institutionalizing conscience and moral convictions above human rights. Homophobic and transphobic lawyer, Roger Severino, directs the office after having worked at the billion-dollar fundamentalist think tank, the Heritage Foundation and the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society in the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity. This new form of social control allows exclusion, restrictions, isolation and punishment of people who don’t follow the narrow evangelical Christian beliefs.

Part of authoritarianism requires scapegoats, and the current administration provides these with claims of threats by LGBTQ people, Latinx, blacks, and Muslims. All of these groups are classified as “sexual deviants,” “criminals,” and “terrorists” who should be eliminated, as shown by the cries of “send her back” and “America—Love it or leave it.”

The “religious freedom” laws largely evolved from the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Its purpose was to protect Indigenous religious practices, but new laws are weighted toward permission of fundamentalist Christianity to reject and discriminate against “others.” Most of the publicity has come from refusals of florists, bakers, photographers, and other “artists” to discriminate against same-gender couples who have been protected in the past by state laws. Women also face discrimination since the 1994 Hobby Lobby decision when the Supreme Court recognized for-profit businesses as having “religious beliefs” that permit them to circumvent labor laws and deny health coverage. A publicly funded adoption and foster agency in South Carolina refused a lesbian couple from fostering a child in state custody.

These 60 laws are not designed to freely practice a religion: they impose a set of fundamentalist Christian morals on the entire population of taxpayers. Behind the laws are Islamophobes in southern states who block the building of mosques to preserve a narrow view of Christian values in publicly funded institutions. Like the Stand Your Ground laws that protect only whites murdering unarmed children instead of abused women trying to protect themselves.

The “moral” view goes far beyond these laws. In New York City, Eric Garner, a black man, was killed because he was selling single cigarettes in violation of a law. While he was held down by police officers, he called out 11 times that he couldn’t breathe; he died of asphyxia. The police officers were exonerated. The DOJ refuses to bring criminal civil rights charges against the police officer who killed Garner in a chokehold. The officer has stayed on the force for the past five years since Garner’s death.

On the federal level, a civil rights office in the Department of Education has ruled against protecting transgender students. HUD now allows discrimination against LGBTQ people in homeless shelters and emergency shelters during disasters. Conservative states have long used the term “rights” to block unions and collective bargaining—as in “right to work”—and forcing taxpayers to pay for religious schools in “right to choose” charter schools.

Health care is a serious concern after HHS released the rule “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care” that allows all health care providers to refuse care for patients even if the entities receive federal funding. HHS ignored the majority of the 242,000 public comments expressing concern about wilful permission to eliminate health care. Although some people may think that moral and religious excuses might be limited to reproductive rights, health care providers can refuse care for LGBTQ people, single women, people of color—in short, anyone. The excuse is to equate religious restrictions with civil rights, despite First Amendment rights, and enforced by the commission that consolidates authority over 25 federal laws allowing religious refusals.

An early attempt to clarify religious liberty came from James Madison’s treatise “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments” leading to the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and guiding both the United States Constitution and the First Amendment. Madison’s position about religion, coming from the religious persecution of Baptists when he was young, is to not favor one faith above another and leave the checks and balances to religious groups. Like early capitalism, religion should have open competition with rules to keep the largest ones from undermining new groups. The concept led to states’ eliminating their religious regulations, but persecution of unpopular religious minorities, such as Catholics and Mormons, continued. The Ku Klux Klan, including the father of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), whipped anti-Catholic belief into a frenzy in the 1920s, complete with pervasive conspiracy theories. The prejudice against Catholic beliefs was like that of attacks on Muslim sharia code of behavior. Presidential candidate Al Smith was smeared as being beholden to the Pope despite his assertion about separation of church and state.

In the 1930s, mobs switched their violence toward Jehovah’s Witnesses who refused to salute the flag or be drafted. Their lawsuits, 37 of them reaching the U.S. Supreme Court, changed history when the high court ruled that the First Amendment’s “free exercise” clause applied to state and local government, not just to Congress. World War II cemented the value of religious freedom in opposition to fascism and communism. Despite Dwight Eisenhower’s focus on God being placed onto money and into the pledge of allegiance, religious freedom remained as the Supreme Court restricted government’s role in favoring one religion over another. The 1965 immigration act allowing more non-European people into the U.S. brought more non-Christians. At this time, the Anglicans and Congregationalists who settled America comprise only 1.7 percent of the United States.

Although George W. Bush tried to prevent Islamophobia, evangelical Christians’ bigotry grew with Billy Graham’s Son Franklin and popular televangelist Pat Robertson. DDT helped bigots attack President Obama as a secret Muslim born in a foreign country. Conservative outlets such as Fox promoted hatred for Muslims with DDT’s mentor Brian Kilmeade of Fox and Friends saying, “All terrorists are Muslims.” With DDT at the nation’s helm, people have changed their position that attacks on minority religions are un-American. He insisted that Muslims don’t assimilate and that they are dangerously disloyal. He refused to focus on terrorists and attacked all Muslims, reinforcing the multiplication of violent attacks on American Muslims.

Gone is Madison’s belief that government should not favor one religion over another as DDT loaded his government with extremist anti-Muslim activists and gone is the model of religious freedom. DDT has demonized all religions except fundamentalist Christianity while destroying people under the guise of religious freedom. He started with the Muslim ban, that the conservatives on the Supreme Court upheld and claimed that he wanted Muslims to be forced to register so that they could be tracked down, and continued to take human rights from everyone in the name of “religious freedom.” Evangelicals rule.

December 4, 2014

Conservatives Blame Police Killings on Big Government

Some conservatives have joined progressives in decrying the lack of an indictment for a police officer who killed a 43-year-old Staten Island man with a chokehold. Last July, Daniel Pantaleo joined other police officers in taking down Eric Garner while he was standing on the street. Within minutes Garner was dead, as a video of the tragedy shows. After the grand jury released its decision not to indict Pantaleo, people across the country filled streets in protest.

Conservatives objection, however, comes from their belief that big government is responsible for Garner’s death. Without high cigarette taxes in New York, Garner would not have died, according to Lawrence McQuillan in the Washington Times:

“[E]very vote for higher taxes gives police increased authority to exert more force on citizens in more situations. Higher excise taxes inevitably lead to more violent clashes between police and smugglers…. Eliminating punitive cigarette taxes would shrink the underground market and help redirect police resources to combating real crimes of force and violence, rather than empowering police to employ violence in the name of tax collection.”

Those who question such taxes fail to understand the benefits of a law that gives people a better quality of life through reducing smoking. Libertarians argue that these taxes are an undemocratic intrusion into private lives. Yet McQuillan’s logic requires the elimination of all taxes because they use police resources “to employ violence in the name of tax collection.” He fails to understand that no taxes means no government services—including police.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), potential presidential candidate, followed the same distorted line of reasoning last night when he appeared on Chris Matthews MSNBC program, Hard Ball. After expressing initial dismay about the video of Garner crying out “I can’t breathe” multiple times, Rand concluded:

“I think it’s also important to know that some politician put a tax of $5.85 on a pack of cigarettes. So they’ve driven cigarettes underground by making them so expensive. But then some politician also had to direct the police to say, ‘Hey, we want you arresting people for selling a loose cigarette.’ And for someone to die over breaking that law, there really is no excuse for it. But I do blame the politicians.”

Rand ignored the fact that Garner died because a police officer violated NYPD rules by putting Garner in a chokehold and holding his head against the ground.

It’s not the first time that Rand has exonerated police action by blaming “politicians” and “the war on drugs.” In a Time op-ed piece published after the grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson (MO), Rand wrote:

“Escaping the poverty trap will require all of us to relearn that not only are we our brother’s keeper, we are our own keeper. While a hand-up can be part of the plan, if the plan doesn’t include the self-discovery of education, work, and the self-esteem that comes with work, the cycle of poverty will continue.”

According to Rand, Brown was responsible for his own death because he failed to participate in “self-discovery.” Nowhere did Rand mention that Brown was only one month away from attending a vocational education school after having graduated from high school—those pieces of “education” and “work.”

Rand also got his information wrong. According to his op-ed, “In Ferguson, the precipitating crime was not drugs, but theft.” Much of the information released before the grand jury proved that Wilson didn’t know that Brown had participated in an alleged crime. Brown’s crime was jaywalking.

According to conservatives, the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner had nothing to do with racism: it was only because of the liberals’ insistence on the “nanny state.” Without taxes and handouts, the poor would disappear, and the police would have no need to kill those who they are employed to protect.

Yet conservatives ignore the problem of police across the United States who evidence racial prejudice in their community. Five officers in Montgomery County (OH) are being investigated but are still being paid, three of them remaining on the job, for such text messages as “I hate n*ggers. That is all” and “What do apples and black people have in common? They both hang from trees.”

Brown and Garner aren’t the only black men recently killed by white officers. John Crawford is dead after he shopped in Walmart and picked up a toy gun; Darrien Hunt was killed with multiple shots in his back for carrying a toy sword; and 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed in Cleveland because he openly carried a toy gun—legal in Ohio.

According to footage, Rice was shot within two seconds of the police officer’s pulling up in his car. The killer, Timothy Loehmann, had been judged unfit for police work two years ago by his then-employer, Independence (OH), that cited his “dismal” handgun performance. An investigation into Cleveland’s police division for the past 18 months revealed that officers “carelessly fire their weapons, placing themselves, subjects, and bystanders at unwarranted risk of serious injury or death.” Two examples were police shooting an unarmed hit-and-run suspect in the neck and firing 24 rounds in a residential neighborhood, hitting 14 parked cars and another six hits of houses. A police chase two years ago used at least 62 vehicles and 137 bullets to kill two unarmed black suspects, each sustaining over 20 gunshot wounds.

Last spring, a police officer, 47-year-old Frank Phillips, was photographed choking a drunken student at an end-of-the-year party at the University of Tennessee. Two other police officers handcuffed the man. Within hours of the photo being published in the UK Daily Mail, Phillips was fired, and the officers handcuffing him were placed on leave. The choked man is white and still alive.

Ethan Couch is still alive after he killed four people and injured two others in a drunken joy ride. He is now safe in an upscale rehab facility and facing another nine years of rehabilitation and probation. Kevin Miner, who kicked an officer and broke his hand when found hiding in a stranger’s basement, was arrested with no one shot or otherwise hurt. Cliven Bundy is considered a hero after he organized an army in Nevada that threatened government officials with high-powered weapons. All these men are white. White people are inconvenienced; black people are killed. Much more information is available at hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite where white people are recording their easy escapes from police action after committing crimes.

Satirist Andy Borowitz has a solution for the grand jury lack of indictment: supply them with eyes. Dorrinson is a mythical senator used in several of Borowitz’s columns. In this one he said:

“Body cameras are an important part of the solution. But I strongly believe that if you take video evidence and add eyes, the combination would be unstoppable.” [In response to the request for working brains:] “Yes, in a perfect world, all grand juries would have brains. But progress is an incremental thing. Let’s start with eyes and eventually work our way up to brains.”

Even former RNC chair Michael Steele understands the problem in the United States when white police officers can kill black people with impunity although evidence shows that the police are in the wrong. He said that “a black man’s life is not worth a ham sandwich” to grand juries and the prosecutors who are hired to fight for an indictment.

Those who are convinced that there was no racial motivation in no indictment in the Garner case should imagine the response from Fox and other far-right sources if the police officer had been black and the victim a wealthy white man.

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.

Eric-Garner-Killed-998x561

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.

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