Administration Announces NYPD Officer Will Not Be Charged in Eric Garner’s Death
On July 16, the Department of Justice announced that they will not be bringing a deadly force case against the New York police officer who was involved in choking Eric Garner to death in 2014, sparking outrage amongst civil rights advocates. The issue has not only sparked protests over the issue of excessive force by police, but divided federal officials as well.
Garner was recorded saying “I can’t breathe” after being placed in a chokehold by Officer Pantaleo. Officers approached Garner for arrest because he was allegedly selling individual, untaxed cigarettes on the street.
“Willfully Used Excessive Force”
In addition, the Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Officer Pantaleo for the chokehold after a five-year long federal civil rights investigation. According to those behind the decision, their reasoning was that the government could not prove that the officer “willfully used excessive force” to violate Garner’s rights.
The Justice Department indicates that it used these factors in deciding whether to bring charges; asking whether:
- the officer used in reasonable force;
- willfully violated the law;
- acted in his official capacity; and
- Garner was injured.
In the end, it was the use of unreasonable force that they claim is difficult to prove.
Difficulties Bringing Charges Against Police
Now, Garner’s family members and civil rights advocates are calling on the mayor of New York to fire the officer and hold the other officers involved in the arrest accountable. Ultimately, the decision over whether to fire the officers up to Commissioner O’Neill once the police administrative judge who presided over the disciplinary trial renders her verdict. To date, none of the officers involved in Garner’s death been charged or disciplined.
Although it has always been difficult to prosecute police for deaths while in custody, previous Attorney General Eric Holder indicated that the evidence suggested that the government should bring charges against the officer. However, the last time that the government brought a deadly force case against the New York police officer was in 1998 on civil rights charges in a choking death. Now questions are being asked as to whether prosecutors ever interviewed the officer Pantaleo, which would have helped establish state of mind when a chokehold was done on Garner. In order to prove criminal conduct, the government would have to convince a jury that the officer made it the clear decision to apply a chokehold because the police department had banned chokeholds for more than two decades at the time.
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If your civil rights have been violated while being arrested for a crime in New York, contact our experienced NYC criminal defense attorneys at the office of Mark I. Cohen, Esq. today to find out how we can help.