This week, a judge 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. That specific information turned out to be absolutely nothing of substance. But more information about the grand jury has leaked out in recent days, including reports claiming that DA Daniel Donovan did not ask grand jurors to consider a reckless endangerment charge.
According to NBC's sources, Donovan asked grand jurors to only consider the higiher manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges against Pantaleo. As the Daily News explained, "Those charges are harder to get because they imply that the cop knew his actions could result in death or serious injury — and did them anyway."
The DA's office would not directly comment on why they didn't ask jurors to consider reckless endangerment, but said in a statement: "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."
The WSJ reports Donovan has gotten mixed reviews, although some experts claim that the testimony of Pantaleo and other cops might have had the most impact on jurors: "The jury is going to see this through the eyes of the cop: how he didn’t intend to hurt him, didn’t intend to choke him," said Eugene O’Donnell, professor at John Jay School of Criminal Justice. "The video will show that the man was not clearly acquiescing."
After the grand jury decision, Assemblyman Karim Camara proposed legislation overhauling how grand jury proceedings work: "We do not believe there was an independent assessment of the facts by the district attorney," she said. At least one person connected to the case agrees: Ramsey Orta, the man who took the video of the incident, told the News that he thinks the jury was already predisposed toward Pantaleo.
"I think they already had their minds made up,” he told them. "I feel like it wasn’t fair at all. 'It wasn’t fair from the start." Orta appeared before the grand jury on Sept. 1st for about 10 minutes; he says some jurors were late, some only asked about Garner and not Pantaleo, others were barely paying attention. "The whole thing was just about Eric — why was he selling cigarettes, did you know he was selling cigarettes? It was bulls---," he said.
"When I went to the grand jury to speak on my behalf, nobody in the grand jury was even paying attention to what I had to say," Orta said. "People were on their phones, people were talking. I feel like they didn’t give (Garner) a fair grand jury. People was on their phones, people were having side conversations, like it was just a regular day to them."