This Update In The Eric Garner Case Could See DOJ Prosecution Move Forward
After more than two years, the Justice Department seems to be pushing forward with the case to prosecute at least one of the police officers involved in Eric Garner's death by chokehold on a Staten Island sidewalk.The New York Times reported that the DOJ had replaced the New-York-based agents and lawyers who had been investigating the case in an attempt to move forward with criminal charges. This update in the Garner case could prove fundamental for any future prosecution.
On Tuesday, an anonymous law enforcement official told The New York Post that the DOJ would press charges against NYPD cop Daniel Pantaleo, who performed the chokehold. The piece points to some controversy among the ranks, because the New-York-based investigators didn't agree with the decision to press charges, and now the D.C.-based Justice Department team is pressing ahead anyway.
According to The Times piece, these decisions are coming from as high up the chain as Attorney General Loretta Lynch herself. The paper reported that she has been weighing her options for months. She was in charge of the Eastern District of New York as a U.S. Attorney before being appointed Attorney General, so she is definitely familiar with the case, which was even thought to pose a potential problem in her confirmation at the time.
Now, the next step, assuming that the prosecution of Pantaleo is to proceed, will be a grand jury in Brooklyn, The Times reported. Ultimately, lawyers from the Civil Rights Division from the Justice Department in D.C. might make the whole case themselves. Either way, that is still quite a ways off, as first the official decision to charge will need to happen first. None of this has been confirmed by the DOJ or the FBI.
The disagreement among prosecutors could make the ability to win a grand jury indictment harder, too. The New York Daily News reported that defense attorneys would likely subpoena emails and other communication between investigators to show a jury that not even the government could decide on what to do regarding the case. They could then use the DOJ's doubt to convince the grand jury that they should doubt his guilt too.
A grand jury already declined indicting Pantaleo in 2014 at the state level. Why that happened, and exactly what occurred in the courtroom, is a mystery. For example, what testimony was given is unknown because the New York State courts have decided to keep the grand jury transcripts sealed.
While this latest update by no means spells certainty for Garner's supporters who are seeking a conviction, it's much more likely now than it was before the shakeup.