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The Garner No-Bill

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A commenter (paul, I believe) asked me a while back what I thought of the grand jury's declining to return an indictment in the Staten Island episode in which a policeman apparently choked (or otherwise pretty much directly caused the death of) Eric Garner.

I am reluctant to second-guess the work of the grand jurors, who had the opportunity to examine directly more evidence more closely than I have had.  In this instance, however, I will make an exception.  It seems to me, from the most important piece of evidence  --  the tape of the take-down  --  that there was probable cause to believe that the officer committed some degree of criminal homicide, and that he should have been indicted.

The differences between this case and Ferguson are legion.  The suspect offered no visible resistance, never punched the officer, never went for his gun, and never bull rushed him.  Most importantly, within seconds of the take-down, at least four other officers were on the scene, two of them sitting or kneeling on Garner.  At that point, the threat of physical harm to the officer (if there ever was one) had abated. The officer thus was required to have the self-control to release the hold.  He didn't.  That is at the minimum probable cause to believe that the officer committed criminal homicide.

If there was any racial animus here, it hasn't been proved.  And no serious person thinks the officer started the day intending to kill Garner or anyone else. But the tape shows what it shows.

See also the analysis here.  

1 Comment


Thanks for your commentary.

You and I agree 100% on the Garner and Ferguson cases.

Your Lebron T-shirt is in the mail. http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/basketball/nets/lebron-wear-breathe-tees-nets-cavs-article-1.2038414

P.S. So what do you think of the request (presumably prompted by the Garner case) by the New York AG to take over (from county prosecutors) the investigation of killings at the hands of the police?

I think there is a lot of room for improvement in terms of the process by which local jurisdictions investigate officer involved shootings. But I will wait to hear what you have to say, if anything, before discussing the matter.

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