Judge Rules Civilian Review Board Can Prosecute Officer In Eric Garner Death
New York, NY – A New York Police Department (NYPD) officer’s administrative trial is scheduled to begin Monday despite the fact that the autopsy revealed the police didn’t kill Eric Garner.
NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s attorney, Stuart London, had sought a preliminary injunction to stop the departmental trial with the argument that the Civilian Complaint Review Board didn’t have jurisdiction to prosecute the case, the New York Post reported.
But Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden decided that it was time for Garner’s family, Officer Pantaleo, and the public to have a “resolution.”
“It is five years since the tragic incident,” Madden wrote in her decision. “The family of Mr. Garner, who lost a loved one, and petitioner, whose career and reputation are at stake, have significant interests in the trial of the issues surrounding the Garner incident going forward at this time, as does the public since the Garner incident raises serious concerns about interactions between individuals in the community and members of the NYPD.”
Pantaleo’s attorney called the decision “not unexpected” and said it would work in his favor if case has to go to an appeals court in the future, the New York Post reported.
NYPD announced in July of 2018 that it wasn’t going to wait any longer for the Department of Justice to complete its investigation into the 2014 death of Garner, and said it planned to move ahead with an internal investigation.
"Based on our most recent conversations, it has become clear that a definite date by which time a final decision by the U.S. DOJ will be rendered in this matter cannot be predicted," NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Legal Matters Lawrence Byrne wrote in a letter to DOJ Deputy Chief Paige Fitzgerald.
“The NYPD has come to the conclusion that given the extraordinary passage of time since the incident without a final decision on the US DOJ’s criminal investigation, any further delay in moving ahead with our own disciplinary proceedings can no longer be justified,” the letter read.
Garner was arrested by NYPD officers on July 17, 2014, after police stopped him for selling individual, untaxed loose cigarettes on a city sidewalk.
He resisted arrest and fought with officers who struggled to take the 350-pound man into custody.
In the process of subduing Garner, video taken by witnesses showed that Officer Pantaleo had his arm around Garner's neck and pressed his face against the sidewalk.
Garner repeatedly told officers “I can’t breathe,” a phrase that became a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter in the months that followed.
Officer Pantaleo later said he tried to use a “seatbelt maneuver” on Garner, and did not mean to put the much larger man into a choke hold.
Garner lost consciousness on the sidewalk, and died in the hospital an hour later from a medical emergency.
Garner's autopsy report showed no damage to any area of his neck, and it was determined that he died of a medical emergency induced by officers who were arresting him. The medical examiner declared it was a homicide.
A New York Grand Jury declined to indict on any criminal charges.
The federal inquiry that has dragged on for years has split the Justice Department in half between those who want to go after the officer and those who think success with the case would be impossible, according to The New York Times.
In December of 2018, the city was finally required to disclose Garner’s autopsy report after years of fighting to prevent its release.
The report showed that there was no damage to Garner's neck.
Lawyers for Officer Pantaleo have tried for years to get a copy of the autopsy report, according to the New York City Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (PBA).
The city had been able to successfully block the release of the report, but that changed now that Officer Pantaleo is set to go on a disciplinary trial after the city's Civilian Complaint Review Board charged him with excessive force violations.
The disciplinary charges come after a Grand Jury already refused to charge Officer Pantaleo and federal authorities have refused to take action against him for years.
According to the PBA, the autopsy report "demonstrates conclusively that Mr. Garner did not die of strangulation of the neck from a chokehold which would have caused a crushed larynx (windpipe) and a fractured hyoid bone. The report notes that Mr. Garner’s windpipe and hyoid bone were both intact."
Despite those conclusions, Officer Pantaleo will face charges of assault and strangulation when his administrative trial goes forward on Monday, the New York Post reported.
Garner’s family celebrated outside the courthouse after the judge ruled the trial would go forward.
“We all saw Eric being murdered on camera,” Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, told the New York Post. “They are still trying to sweep this under the rug. I am appalled at the way they are treating my family.”
Carr complained that Officer Pantaleo and his attorneys had tried “every trick in the book to keep the case from going forward.”
Garner’s family received $5.9 million from the city to settle their wrongful death claim in 2015.