A judicial inquiry into city misconduct over the 2014 death of Eric Garner did not produce an immediate ruling this week, despite arguments made on behalf of the Garner family that the city has been withholding information.
Representation for Garner’s family also argued that the city has failed to produce several witnesses, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and other high-level officials, that they view as key to the case.
“The court seemed to be skeptical about whether it was appropriate to have Mayor de Blasio and other high-level city officials give testimony at the hearing,” said Gideon Oliver, a police misconduct attorney and co-counsel on the case. “The witness list that we proposed goes from the officers all the way up to the top...and would be critical and necessary to the inquiry.” (Oliver has represented Gothamist/WNYC in legal matters.)
The list includes officers who were on the scene when Eric Garner was first approached on Staten Island for allegedly selling loose cigarettes; officers who filled out the arrest processing paperwork; and officer Daniel Pantaleo whose chokehold led to Eric Garner’s death and who was ultimately fired from the NYPD and stripped of his pension benefits.
But the city has opposed producing some witnesses, including Officer Pantaleo, on the grounds that “we are not on good terms with him,” the city’s representation said to the court.
The city has also taken the position that the documents requested by petitioners have already been released, and that high-ranking officials would make inappropriate witnesses.
“So much information about this incident has been made publicly available and there is no evidence that the Mayor or any other city official neglected their duties or violated the law,” a spokesperson for the New York City Law Department said in an email to Gothamist. “There is no legal basis for a judicial inquiry to second-guess the decisions that the law vests in the Mayor and Police Commissioner.”
While representatives for Garner’s family agree that they’ve received said documents, they argue that the city has withheld many other records that would answer some critical questions.
The court apparently has questions, as well. Judge Erika Edwards is now requiring petitioners to submit a new brief making the case for additional witnesses. The next hearing is set for July 19th.
Joseph Gedeon reported this story for the Gothamist/WNYC’s Race & Justice Unit. If you have a tip, some data, or a story idea, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out on Twitter @JGedeon1.