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Grand Jury Will Hear Evidence on Eric Garner's Death

Pallbearers carry Eric Garner's coffin at his funeral in Brooklyn July 23.
Pallbearers carry Eric Garner's coffin at his funeral in Brooklyn July 23.
Photo by Caleb Ferguson

The Staten Island District Attorney's office says a grand jury will hear evidence on the death of Eric Garner, the 43-year-old man who died in July after NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo put him in a chokehold. A press release sent out this morning by Staten Island DA Daniel M. Donovan Jr.'s office didn't mention Office Pantaleo by name, saying only that "after a careful review of the recent findings of the Medical Examiner regarding the cause and manner of Mr. Garner's death," he'd decided to present the case to a grand jury.

The city's Medical Examiner ruled on July 1 that Garner's death was a homicide , caused by compression of his neck and chest and exacerbated by his obesity and asthma. The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the largest union representing NYPD officers, rejected the report as "political" and insisted that Garner wasn't placed in a chokehold at all.

See also: 'I Was Choked by the NYPD': New York's Chokehold Problem Isn't Going Away

""It is not a chokehold," PBA president Patrick Lynch said at a press conference earlier this month. "It was bringing a person to the ground the way we're trained to do to place him under arrest."

Grand juries hear evidence from the District Attorney's office on alleged crimes and determine whether to indict someone. Grand jury proceedings are secret, meaning that we don't know who's on a grand jury, what day they meet, or what evidence they see. Records from grand jury proceedings are never released to the public. Witnesses are sometimes called to testify before grand juries, though not always. The main witness in Garner's death, his friend Ramsey Orta, 22, was arrested a short while later and charged with gun possession, which he's claimed was retaliation by the NYPD.

In his statement, Donovan made sure to stress that no information about the grand jury will be released, although he did say they would be impaneled and begin hearing evidence sometime next month. He also promised the proceedings would be fair and impartial: "Mindful of the solemn oath to enforce the law that I took when I was first sworn into office as District Attorney in January of 2004, and with a full appreciation that no person is above the law, nor beneath its protection, I assure the public that I am committed to conducting a fair, thorough, and responsible investigation into Mr. Garner's death, and that I will go wherever the evidence takes me, without fear or favor."

The full statement from DA Donovan's office is on the following page.

 

Statement from Staten Island DA Daniel M. Donovan Jr.:

"Based upon the investigation that my office has conducted to date regarding the July 17, 2014, death of Eric Garner, and after a careful review of the recent findings of the Medical Examiner regarding the cause and manner of Mr. Garner's death, I have determined that it is appropriate to present evidence regarding the circumstances of his death to a Richmond County Grand Jury. Yesterday, the Court granted my application for the impaneling of an additional Grand Jury and I intend to utilize that Grand Jury sometime next month to begin presenting evidence on this matter.

"Mindful of the solemn oath to enforce the law that I took when I was first sworn into office as District Attorney in January of 2004, and with a full appreciation that no person is above the law, nor beneath its protection, I assure the public that I am committed to conducting a fair, thorough, and responsible investigation into Mr. Garner's death, and that I will go wherever the evidence takes me, without fear or favor.

"Notwithstanding the keen public interest in this matter, to maintain the integrity of this investigation, and in furtherance of my obligations under Penal Law §215.70 to maintain the secrecy of Grand Jury proceedings, I will make no comment now, or during the period of time that the Grand Jury is convened, regarding the days that the Grand Jury will be sitting; who may be called as a witness before the Grand Jury; what any witness has or will testify about before the Grand Jury; when the Grand Jury will conclude its investigation; what criminal charges will be considered by the Grand Jury, or against whom the Grand Jury might consider any such criminal charges."


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