No indictment in N.Y. man’s choking death looks like a grave injustice

A memorial where Eric Garner was subdued by police. (New York Times photo/Todd Heisler)

A memorial where Eric Garner was subdued by police. (New York Times photo/Todd Heisler)

A memorial where Eric Garner was subdued by police. (New York Times photo/Todd Heisler)

Reasonable people can disagree about the lack of indictment in the shooting death of Michael Brown. While Brown’s death at the hands of a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, was tragic, the physical evidence and eyewitnesses pointed to a more complicated situation than originally reported. Brown shouldn’t be dead today, but nor was he a totally innocent victim.

Based on what we currently know, the same can’t be said about a killing in Staten Island, New York, this summer. Video evidence, non-existent in the Brown case, shows 43-year-old Eric Garner upset at being questioned by police officers for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes, but the unarmed man makes no violent or aggressive gestures or threats. Instead, two officers initiated the contact that resulted in Garner’s death — which a medical examiner deemed a homicide, apparently by a chokehold forbidden by New York Police Department policy. After being wrestled to the sidewalk by at least four cops, Garner could be heard repeating, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” but the officers did not let up. You can watch one video account below — but be please advised the images are disturbing.

Yet, this afternoon, a grand jury decided not to indict the officer depicted in the video with his arm around Garner’s neck. Daniel Pantaleo could have faced charges ranging from murder to manslaughter. Now he won’t.

Unlike in Ferguson, where the evidence and witness testimony in part supported officer Darren Wilson’s claim he was acting in self-defense, this lack of an indictment is very hard to square with any common notion of justice.

Perhaps other evidence presented to the Staten Island grand jury will reveal something we don’t know now. But the video evidence alone makes it difficult to imagine what that mitigating evidence possibly could have been.

Reader Comments 0

91 comments
MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Just a point or two about the case in Ferguson, Missouri: An Assistant to the Prosecutor presented to the Grand Jury, early in their tenure, a law in which part of it was invalid in that that part had been over ruled by a later law.  The jurors did not know that  that out of date law, which gave the police more authority to kill than is granted today, was unlawful today.  The Grand Jury sized up evidence and discarded evidence, day after day for over a month, based on that erroneous, no longer valid, law.  On the last day or two of their tenure, the Assistant to the Prosecutor corrected her error to the Grand Jury, but any reasonable person would know that that gross error (deliberate or not) could easily have changed the Grand Jury's verdict.


Moreover, I heard on television a medical examiner stating that one of the bullets which entered Michael Brown's arm was at an angle in which he had to have had his arms raised.  This means he could have easily had his arms raised in surrender as some witnesses testified.  This case needed to be tried with full cross examination.  The Prosecuting Attorney wanted it dismissed, imo.  He had friends on the police force.  Six of his own family members were policemen.  I listened to his full 20 minute television explanation before he gave the verdict of the Ferguson Grand Jury.  I listened very closely to the words uttered.  From my training as a reading specialist, my opinion was that he attempted to justify the opinions of the Grand Jury to the public.  I believe he was biased, too close to the police to be a fair professional, in spite of his amiable demeanor.  Brown is dead.  That needed a trial even if it came to acquittal.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I, also, would like to compliment Kyle on his excellent article today.  Thank you, Kyle.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

I've said positive things about this column over at Jay's, it just occurred I never paid my respects here.


Fine piece, Kyle. Thanks.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I believe that those particular policemen were ignorant of other possibilities and ways to have handled that situation. As I advocated earlier, police must be better trained, in sensitivity and in effective tactics, one of which would be to talk to the suspect with care and respect, as a human being, so that police situations do not rapidly escalate and deteriorate into out-of-proportion violence.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings


The killing of this man by police was an act that was grossly disproportionate to the infraction committed.  These police killings for petty infractions must stop.  Police should be handling the situations better so that they do not rapidly escalate to this level of destruction. Wise teachers know how to diffuse possibly out-of-control situations from occurring to begin with, with unruly and disturbed students. In many incidents, police should be able to use the same tactics of diffusion, by exercising wiser options than they have done in recent events.

notagain
notagain

Cameras did not help in NY.Why do you think they would help in MO or anywhere else?We need a computerized system where all facts are entered.Let the computer make the decision.Then let the lawyers convince the system where it's wrong.Far fetched I suppose,but we need a fair system regardless of race,religion or affiliation.

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

@notagain Disagree. The cameras worked as they were supposed to, capturing the situation and allowing everybody to reach their own conclusion. What we are missing, or at least I haven't seen, how the grand jury could have reached such an obviously wrong decision. 

Bruno2
Bruno2

As far as the racial aspect of this incident, I think that lies in the eye of the beholder.  While the Libs are convinced that "Black Lives Don't Matter", arrest-related deaths statistics show that far more White people are killed each year by the police than Black people.  Maybe we can look at this as a "people" problem one of these days.....

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Bruno2  "White people are killed each year by the police than Black people."


Really? What a revelation! I suppose you have never noticed that there are many more white people than black people in the country?

Bruno2
Bruno2

@MarkVV @Bruno2 Then tell me why the death of Black folks at the hands of the police receive so much more attention........

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Bruno2 @MarkVV 

And why should I tell you that, Bruno2? Try to explain, if you can, your question,which I doubt.

irishmafia116
irishmafia116

52 people on the grand jury voted not to indict. Do you know something they don't?

Bruno2
Bruno2

I have mixed feelings about this case.  In watching the video, the man was resisting arrest, though not to the point that a choke hold needed to be administered.  At the same time, a Grand Jury made up of regular citizens didn't see enough to convict the cop. 

JamVet
JamVet

Good for you, Kyle!


Letting Eduh8tr's's sickening words go unchallenged would be a damn shame.


One thing I do want to make crystal clear for those here, like Ed, who condone this vile and unconscionable MURDER.

That is EXACTLY what this was determined to be by the Medical Examiner.


HOMICIDE.


Remember when Republicans supported law and order?


"We are definitely not living in a post-racial society. And I bet there are a lot of people out there wondering how much of a society we're living in at all." ~John Stewart

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

Bookman has an article up now addressing this


And it seems the cop in question has a bit of a history to say the least.



DebbieDoRight
DebbieDoRight

What I Did After Police Killed My Son

Ten years later, we in Wisconsin passed the nation’s first law calling for outside reviews.


After police in Kenosha, Wis., shot my 21-year-old son to death outside his house ten years ago — and then immediately cleared themselves of all wrongdoing — an African-American man approached me and said: “If they can shoot a white boy like a dog, imagine what we’ve been going through.”

Our country is simply not paying enough attention to the terrible lack of accountability of police departments and the way it affects all of us—regardless of race or ethnicity. Because if a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy — that was my son, Michael — can be shot in the head under a street light with his hands cuffed behind his back, in front of five eyewitnesses (including his mother and sister), and his father was a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who flew in three wars for his country — that’s me — and I still couldn’t get anything done about it, then Joe the plumber and Javier the roofer aren’t going to be able to do anything about it either.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/08/what-i-did-after-police-killed-my-son-110038.html#ixzz3KwchEprf

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

As President Obama has recognized, police wearing cameras will help this type of injustice from occurring as frequently as it presently does.  Moreover, more education of psychology is needed for police - in terms of their being able to recognize their own biases and stereotypical thinking regarding those whom they encounter. In having this type of training police will be able to be in greater control of their own actions. 


 Moreover, that kind of police sensitivity education will teach police how to encounter a petty criminal while also understanding the "criminal's" fears and immaturity in reaction to the police's authority. (Teachers must deal with these fears and immaturity daily in handling unruly students.) Police must build trust in the communities in which they function and that will take a level of wisdom that I have not seen in these recent unfortunate deaths of civilians by police. Education will help to enlighten those who choose a career in policing communities and individuals.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@DebbieDoRight


I agree with your comments,  which extend my thoughts from above.  In fact, I had posted this in response to another poster on Jim Galloway's blog this morning:


"Prosecutors work directly with the police daily and often become working friends with them.  This can cause unrecognized biases in the prosecutor in favor of the police that should not be acceptable where justice is primary, not friendships."



DebbieDoRight
DebbieDoRight

@MaryElizabethSings  -- Police wearing cameras and outside investigations of all police shootings.  Police should not be allowed to investigate THEMSELVES. Foxes guarding the chicken coop does not make it safer for the chickens.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

Evidently, getting police punished for killing people is hard to come by. 


Police have a hard job, but they should not use deadly force if they do not have to.  I do not want to watch the video, but from the commentary, it sounds like this person did not put up any resistance other than verbal. (although I assume once attacked by the police, there was some struggling taking place.) 


Actions should have consequences if the result is death.  Unfortunately, it seems actions by police against minorities is acceptable  and given a pass by grand juries.  


And people wonder why minorities distrust the police and authorities. 



Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@LogicalDude "although I assume once attacked by the police, there was some struggling taking place"

Not really ... which is another reason the officer's actions were overly aggressive to the point of recklessness.

RantNRave
RantNRave

"Brown's DNA was found on the gun.  Did you just miss that bit of news? "


STRAKER


..........WHAT WE DID NOT MISS WAS MIKE BROWN LYING IN THE STREET FOR 


4 HOURS ON DISPLAY FOR THE WORLD TO SEE.


............WHAT WE DID NOT MISS WAS THAT WITNESS #10 CHANGED HIS LIE


FROM 100 YARDS TO 50 YARDS


..........WHAT WE DID NOT MISS WAS THAT THE ASSISTANT D.A. GAVE THE


JURORS AN UNCONSTITUTIONAL OUTDATED LAW TO RELY ON.

straker
straker

Mark - "Officer Wilson had Brown's blood on his hands"


Who told you that?

Brosephus
Brosephus

@straker 

"Brown's DNA was found on the gun."

There's this thing called evidence.  It always tells the truth.  Brown was bleeding after getting shot at the SUV.  Wilson had to open the door to get out and give chase.  Only Brown's DNA was found on the inside door handle of the police vehicle and Wilson admitted that he washed blood from his hands at the police station.

Wilson's medical report didn't show any cuts or wounds that would have caused bleeding, so the only other source of blood was Brown.  That's how Brown's DNA ends up on a door handle that Wilson has been opening all day while on patrol while Wilson's DNA could not be confirmed on the same surface.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@straker  straker, you must have read very selectively, if you do not know this. It has been VERY widely reported, and never challenged, only "explained." (The explanation by Wilson included that "it was gross."

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

Money quote from the article linked to below -


The real question that is going to be asked, now, is just how aggressive law enforcement can and should be in an era of low crime, which is what we’re in now. If you defang cops, you are inviting a return to trouble. As I wrote last week, “if we send police officers the message that it is safer for their careers and reputations to stand down, stand down they will. We are the ones who will have to reckon with the results.” 


Which is exactly what the lawless crowd wants. 


On the other hand, since when did "to serve and protect" require an MRAP?


San Diego School District's New 18-Ton Armored Vehicle Creates Stir



http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/09/13/348242448/san-diego-school-district-s-new-15-ton-armored-vehicle-creates-stir


Insane.

Caius
Caius

Selling cigarettes is a capital crime?  That is the net result of the police action.  The guy received the death sentence for selling illegal cigarettes.

There is such a thing as discretion.  Had the police used discretion, the guy would be alive today.

Four policemen were spending time and effort on the crime of selling cigarettes?

As I have stated repeatedly, human life is he cheapest thing going in the United States.

 






straker
straker

Mark


Brown's DNA was found on the gun.


Did you just miss that bit of news?

MarkVV
MarkVV

@straker  So what? Officer Wilson had Brown's blood on his hands (before he washed it off). He handled his gun after the shooting. Why are you so surprised by Brown's DNA on the gun?


One more time, this is another example why the evidence should have been examined and challenged in an open court.

Brosephus
Brosephus

@straker 

"Brown's DNA was found on the gun."

Brown's DNA was also found on the outside driver door, Wilson's uniform, and the inside driver's door handle in the form of blood.  When you get shot you bleed.  Brown got shot at near point blank range when Wilson shot from the vehicle.  That's how Brown's DNA ended up on the gun.

straker
straker

So, if the police want to arrest you, don't resist"


Do you actually have to ask that?


Far out!!!

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

The system and process and [with limitations subject to judicial review] the evidence should always be open to review and examination. This applies to the Ferguson and the NYC police killings. Prosecutions are initiated by the State to pursue interests of the State, not necessarily to secure justice for victims, which can be far more elusive or impossible. As citizens of the State we legitimately demand and are entitled to an honest and aboveboard accounting of the process, decisions, and evidence supporting those decisions. A lot of this other stuff coming down in the aftermath does not appear to derive from those legitimate interests of the citizenry, as the picture posted with this article would indicate.

MarkVV
MarkVV

RafeHollister : “Well, you would have something of a point, if Brown had not attacked the officer and tried to take his gun from him, prior to any shots being fired.

“BTW, Officer Wilson suspected Brown of the undocumented shopping charge, when he put the car in reverse and returned to Brown's location after he noticed the yellow socks and the red


RoadScholar : “Well he robbed a store, and then reached inside the police car to try to get the policeman's gun , which discharged.”

It is people like RafeHollister and RopadScholar, who are incapable of comprehending my point and how the system of justice is supposed to work. They argue about evidence (“Brown attacked the officer, “reached inside the police cars, “ etc.), which was presented without a chance to be challenged in cross-examination. There were plenty of witnesses, who testified to the opposite, but again, even their testimony was simply not believed, without being examined in an open court,

BTW, what officer Wilson suspected Brown to have done is immaterial to the shooting. Garner also was suspected.

InTheMiddle2
InTheMiddle2

@MarkVV No. You dont get it. Do we start putting everybody on trial that defended themselves in their home by killing an intruder?

DebbieDoRight
DebbieDoRight

@InTheMiddle2 @MarkVV  --  False equivalence.  But you'd know that already.  That's why you put that red herring out there in the first place..........

EdUktr
EdUktr

Attempting to appease the left will get you nowhere with them, Kyle. By all accounts Eric Garner was far too obese and asthmatic to foolishly resist arrest. But he did.

So he died of stupidity.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@EdUktr So if he'd been skinnier, the police would have been wrong to choke him to death?

The medical examiner ruled it was a homicide, not a heart attack.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@EdUktr The likelihood that such a maneuver could kill someone in poor health is exactly why it is discouraged or in some cases forbidden.

Juanx
Juanx

@Kyle_Wingfield @EdUktr  Kyle, Generally I have a hard time seeing your point of view, however this time you nailed it.  Thanks.

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@Kyle_Wingfield Good Article


Most Americans wouldn't believe crime is DOWN pretty dramatically across the board.


But it is...

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

Every untimely death is a tragedy, however, there is a lot of hysterical talk about there being "...an epidemic..." of blacks being killed by police officers, though, there were 3 times as many whites killed by police than blacks in the last year.

irishmafia116
irishmafia116

@HeadleyLamar @DownInAlbany Guess they should stop committing so many crimes Like Jesse Jackson said if he see's young black men coming towards him on a street he gets scaed

SimpleTruths
SimpleTruths

This court decision is the worst call to come out of New York since the Butt Fumble.