Petitioners led by The New York Civil Liberties Union have approached the court on Staten Island demanding Judge William Garnett open the records pertaining to the Eric Garner case. The move has been opposed by the Richmond County District Attorney Daniel Donovan. Garnett will hear arguments at a hearing on Thursday morning.
The New York Civil Liberties Union in its court papers has pointed out to the outcry over the grand jury’s decision for not indicting the white NYPD Police officer who had resorted to a fatal chokehold and was watched on a video which went quickly viral over the social media. It cited it as a reason to make an exception to the long-standing practice of keeping the process secret.
NYCLU argues in the court papers, Disclosure is needed “to restore public confidence in our criminal justice system and to inform the current debate that has begun regarding the role of the grand jury as an instrument of justice or injustice.”
Meanwhile the Donovan’s office has argued that grand jury witnesses came forward and testified “with full assurances of secrecy.” Making the testimony public will inevitably lead to harassment or retaliation.
Garner was stopped on the streets of July 17 by Pantaleo and other NYPD officers who suspected that Garner was selling Untaxed Cigarettes. A video shot by an onlooker showed Garner refusing to be handcuffed. The police officer Pantaleo then resorted to a process commonly used to restrain unwilling suspects –wrapping his arms around Garner. Garner who was asthmatic was heard gasping and said he could not breathe. He later was pronounced dead at a hospital.
NYCLU has asked the court to order Danovan to make public the grand jury transcript, which includes the testimony of Pantaleo and dozens of other witnesses, detailed descriptions of evidence and other documentation.