A judge has partially granted the Richmond County DA's request to make public "specific information" from the grand jury investigation into the death of Eric Garner at the hands of NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo. And by partial, we mean basically nothing of substance. While critics of the decision had hoped for the full transcript from the proceedings, DA Daniel Donovan did not seek the transcript's release. But we do know how many witnesses were called! And a few other tidbits, such as:
- The grand jury sat for nine weeks.
- 60 exhibits were admitted into evidence. They included four videos, records regarding NYPD policies and procedures, medical records related to Eric Garner, photos of the scene, autopsy records, and autopsy photos.
- The grand jury was instructed on "relevant principles of law" regarding using force to make arrests.
- The grand jury heard from 50 witnesses, 22 of whom were civilians. The rest were police officers, emergency medical personnel and doctors.
So that's that. Again, DA Donovan did not ask that the transcript be released. Stephen J. Roonye, the judge granting the limited release of information, quoted previous case law in his decision: "The secrecy of the grand jury is jealously guarded because the confidentiality of its proceedings must be insured if it is to continue to be effective."
In a statement, DA Donovan said, "I am authorized to release only the information contained in the attached Order. I respect the Court’s exercise of its discretion, and will abide by the Court’s Order. As such, I will have no further comment in connection with the grand jury proceedings relating to the matter of The Investigation into the Death of Eric Garner." Poof!
Yesterday Jeffrey Fagan, a law professor at Columbia who specializes in police accountability and criminal law, told us, "It’s politically costly for Dan Donovan to indict a police officer on Staten Island. He can easily shift the political and legal burden to the Department of Justice to decide whether to pursue criminal charges. He’s washed his hands of it."
Donovan, a Republican, is up for reelection next year.