Before the tears could even begin to dry in the black community over the unabashed lack of justice in the choke-hold death of Eric Garner, as the police officer responsible was acquitted, three months later the media circus has sparked once again. In recent reports, a New York judge has decided that refusal to release documents of grand jury testimony would be fitting, as there was not enough good reason to make the information public, but with this ruling the community is once again protesting as they believe that there is still no justice for Eric Garner.
As this nation has been struggling with racism between police forces and unarmed African-American men, the battle only continues with each move the courts seem to make. The community has been in a tailspin over all of the injustice that has seemed to occur between white police officers and African-American men. The killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson sparked riots after white police officer, Darren Wilson, was acquitted for a fatal shooting. Then add to that the report by the Justice Department that the cops in Ferguson were found to have racism. But the details of the case involving Eric Garner only threw fire on the racism flames.
Now justice for Eric Garner seems farther away, as the public outcries for the release of the vital information that set his apparent killer free. Residents considered it adding salt to an already ripped open wound, after the New York Grand Jury made the decision not to indict in the Eric Garner case. Protests have once again sparked nationwide, after Thursday’s decision to keep information from the public.
According to the community, Eric Gardner, 43, simply fell victim to police brutality in the Tompkinsville neighborhood of Staten Island, New York on July 17, 2014 when police officer, Daniel Pantaleo applied a choke-hold to Gardner, a tactic banned by the New York City Police Department that led to Gardner’s untimely death. But critics defended Pantaleo, stating that Gardner had a rap sheet after run-ins with the law, including the previous selling of loose cigarettes, which police claimed they were arresting him for. Though selling loose cigarettes does not warrant several officers rushing to the scene to manhandle Gardner into a choke-hold, as selling loose cigarettes in the state of New York is actually a misdemeanor and Gardner’s situation should have been treated as such. Even if Gardner had a long rap sheet, the community believed that Pantaleo was unjustified in his illegal actions.
Then there was the actual video footage taken by an observer’s cell phone. This same video went viral on YouTube and was witnessed by millions worldwide. The video showed Garner being wrestled to the ground and held flat, while deliberately stating many times that he could not breathe.
With all of this concrete evidence weighing in heavy, it would take powerful testimony to make residents believe that the police officer involved was not at all responsible. Though the charges were for wrongful arrest, which Pantaleo defended by saying Garner was resisting arrest, everyone was certain that some kind of justice would be served in this case. But instead Pantaleo was acquitted, and testimony heard is the key to understanding what may have been going on in the jurors minds, when they made such a decision. As the public has demanded justice for Garner, it seems that they still have none, as District Attorney Daniel Donovan ruled not to release the grand jury transcript.
Supreme Court Justice William Garnett stated that it was imperative that the testimony be kept secretive, because they always want witnesses to be honest, and not fear backlash from the public. He said with such a highly publicized case, cooperation and honesty should be encouraged, not discouraged. One thing is right. The witnesses, unless somehow kept anonymous, will probably receive backlash for their statements. However, the case already occurred, so honesty was already encouraged. If the court could somehow hide the names of the specific witnesses and only provide the transcripts of testimony, it might help.
The judge declared that there was no direct need, after testimony provided that the New York law required “a compelling and particularized need” to release such evidence, as testimony to a grand jury. But as mass protests have killed, destroyed buildings, and brought out nationwide disturbance, it seems that that would be enough need. However, even after the New York Civil Liberties Union asked the judge to release the testimony that led to Pantaleo’s acquittal, the court still refuses to provide justice for Eric Garner.
By Tiffani Bell
Dave Bledsoe – Creativecommons Flickr License