It was July 17, 2014, when Eric Garner was choked to death on a street corner in New York. His death was caught on cell phone video as he was choked to death by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo while gasping the words, “I can’t breathe.” Now a critical case that could mean Pantaleo gets kicked off the force is in jeopardy because witnesses can’t remember their grand jury testimony.
The oversight agency of the NYPD has been involved in a departmental administrative action against Pantaleo for the past four years. A Staten Island grand jury refused to indict Pantaleo and testimony was sealed. As part of the investigative process, The Civilian Complaint Review Board has repeatedly asked the courts for grand jury testimony that was given in the Garner death. However, this request has been repeatedly denied because the records are sealed. The NY Daily News has reported that the CCRB has now filed another legal motion to get access to grand jury testimony. The CCRB has found that witnesses are forgetting details from their testimony four years ago and need to be reminded of what they stated. Among those witnesses is the medical examiner.
Kerry Jamieson, the CCRB’s assistant general counsel, wrote in the court filing, “The M.E. stated that she wanted to make sure that her testimony at the … trial was consistent with her testimony that she had given to the grand jury and to the (Department of Justice.) However, that would be difficult because of the amount of time that elapsed since those testimonies.”
Earlier requests to have access to grand jury testimony was blocked by then-District Attorney Daniel Donovan, a republican, who argued that the testimony should remain secret. Donovan has lost his reelection bid and now more sympathetic ears are in place to gain access to the files.
The CCRB will prosecute Pantaleo based on his use of a banned chokehold. If found guilty, Pantaleo, who has been on desk duty since the Garner killing, could lose his job or vacation days. Currently, the US Department of Justice has an open investigation against Pantaleo over civil rights violations in the death of Eric Garner.