Appeals Court Revisits Grand Jury Record in Eric Garner Case
A three-judge panel heard arguments Tuesday in Brooklyn over whether the grand jury record in the Eric Garner case should remain sealed. NY1's Dean Meminger filed this report.
Lawyers for civil rights groups and the public advocate's office urged a four-judge panel to release the evidence heard by the grand jury that investigated the chokehold death of Eric Garner.
"There's been a little disclosure and by not disclosing the rest, which is fueling the interests in this and the unfairness," said Natalie Rea of Legal Aid.
A Staten Island judge ruled in March that the grand jury proceedings should stay sealed. The parties seeking the release of the minutes appealed, saying the public needs to know why the grand jury did not indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantelo or any other officers seen on cell video arresting Garner last summer when he died.
Former Staten Island DA—now congressman—Dan Donovan disclosed that 50 witnesses testified, but not much more.
The attorney representing the DA's office said the secrecy should be strongly guarded. She added the judge overseeing the grand jury agreed.
"Judge Rooney determined that that limited type of information struck the correct balance between the need to protect grand jury secrecy versus inform the public," said Staten Island Assistant DA Anne Grady.
Some of the appellate judges took issue with the DA's office selectively releasing details, however.
"Your office seems to wanted to put a very pretty gloss on what happened and kind of sweep everything else under the rug and use grand jury secrecy as its protection," one judge said.
The civil rights attorneys said Pantelo and the other officers should not be able to hide their testimony.
"I don't think in their official duty appearing in front of a grand jury have any right of privacy about what they did," said James Meyerson of the NAACP.
Federal prosecutors are also investigating Garner's death and maybe studying the grand jury minutes themselves.
After hearing all of the arguments, the four judges will now have to make their decision on whether or not to release the grand jury information. No word on when that decision will happen.