As protesters outraged by the Eric Garner grand jury decision continue to march through the streets of New York and major cities like San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, DC, a report by NBC in New York alleges that Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan did not ask the grand jury to consider a reckless endangerment charge against police officer Daniel Pantaleo.
Donovan only asked the grand jury to look at manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges, according to the NBC report. That calculation by Donovan made a huge difference in the resolution of the case because manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide have a much higher bar to clear than reckless endangerment, which would only require that the grand jury believe Pantaleo’s actions figured in Garner’s death.
A simple viewing of the cellphone videotape would quickly answer that question in the affirmative, which would have given the grand jury a reason to indict him and require him to stand trial. Even if the grand jury didn’t believe Panaleo intended to choke Garner to death, the members still could have voted for reckless endangerment.
The more serious charges are harder to get an indictment on because they imply that the cop knew his actions could result in death or serious injury.
Rodney Lee, manager of the Tompkinsville beauty supply shop in front of which Garner was killed on July 17, told The New York Daily News that the grand jury barely asked him any questions.
“They all treated us like we were dumb, like didn’t know nothing,” he said.
Ramsey Orta, the Staten Islander who recorded the video, also told the News that the grand jury was rigged and the panelists barely asked him any questions.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on the “Today” show that the nation has a problem if Black think the legal system treats them differently and unfairly.
“If that is the perception, you have a problem anyway,” Cuomo said. “We’ve been discussing whether or not it’s a reality—a grand jury, if they found it, if it’s guilty—but the problem is the perception itself even if it wasn’t the reality.”
Yet Cuomo bears some responsibility for the outcome because he refused to appoint a special prosecutor in the case, despite widespread calls from Black leaders.