NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York Civil Liberties Union was set to go to court Thursday, as the group demanded the release of the grand jury transcript from the Eric Garner case.
The Legal Aid Society and New York City Public Advocate Letitia James have joined the NYCLU in filing petitions seeking the release of transcripts, instructions given to the grand jury and evidence presented to the grand jury that decided not to indict the officer involved in the apparent chokehold that resulted in Garner’s death.
In cellphone video of the incident, Officer Daniel Pantaleo is seen placing his arm around Garner’s neck in an apparent chokehold and then taking him to the ground after Garner refuses to be handcuffed.
The heavyset Garner, who had asthma, is heard saying repeatedly, “I can’t breathe!” He died a short time later.
The New York City Medical Examiner’s office ruled Garner’s death a homicide, caused by the officer’s apparent chokehold as well as chest and neck compressions and prone positioning “during physical restraint by police.”
Police union officials and Pantaleo’s lawyer have said he used an authorized take down move and not a chokehold against Garner, which is banned under NYPD policy, and said Garner’s poor health was a main cause in his death.
In December, a grand jury ruled not to indict Pantaleo in connection with Garner’s death. The decision set off nationwide protests and triggered immediate calls for the grand jury records to be unsealed.
The judge initially agreed to disclose only limited information, saying the confidentiality of the grand jury proceedings must be ensured in order for them to continue to be effective.
“The failure to indict the officer responsible for the death of Eric Garner has undermined the public’s trust in our criminal justice system, and New Yorkers from across the state have taken to the streets to demand answers,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a news release. “If there was ever a case where the public needs to know all the facts, it’s this one.”
A hearing on the issue had been planned for Thursday of last week, but a judge postponed it because of schedule problems stemming from snow-related court closures.
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