NEW YORK -- The public may never see what evidence was presented to the grand jury that chose not to indict the New York City police officer who put the fatal chokehold on Eric Garner.
On Thursday, a judge approved the release of an extremely limited set of details about the proceedings. Those details are as follows: The grand jury met for nine weeks and heard from a total of 50 witnesses. Sixty exhibits were admitted into evidence. The grand jury was instructed in the law regarding the use of force by police officers.
Scroll down to read the judge’s full decision.
Daniel Donovan Jr., the Richmond County district attorney who prosecuted the case, said in a statement Thursday that he “respected the Court’s exercise of its discretion, and will abide by the Court’s Order.”
“As such,” Donovan continued, “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.”
After the grand jury voted not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo on Wednesday, Donovan had applied for a court order “seeking authorization to publicly release specific information.”
“Regarding comments that I can or cannot make, unlike other jurisdictions that have statutes that permit a district attorney to disclose specific details regarding what took place during a grand jury proceeding, New York law does not permit a district attorney to engage in such disclosure,” he said in his statement.
Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, died on July 17 after Pantaleo put him in a chokehold during an arrest for selling untaxed cigarettes. A viral video showed Garner screaming, “I can’t breathe,” 11 times until his body goes limp. Chokeholds are banned by New York City Police Department guidelines.
Ramsey Orta, the young man who filmed Garner's arrest, told The Daily News on Thursday that when he testified, "nobody in the grand jury was even paying attention to what I had to say. People were on their phones, people were talking. I feel like they didn't give [Garner] a fair grand jury."
Orta, who said he testified for just 10 minutes, told the paper that he feels "like it wasn't fair at all” and that “it wasn't fair from the start.”
The scant details made public about the Garner grand jury pale in comparison to the complete set of documents released about the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The release of those documents last week raised serious questions about how St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch conducted those proceedings.
On Thursday morning, Rev. Al Sharpton announced that the families of both Garner and Brown would join a march on Washington next Saturday, Dec. 13.
In a press conference, Sharpton and other civil rights leaders called for state and local prosecutors to be removed from all criminal cases with police as defendants. Because those prosecutors work so closely with police on other cases, the civil rights advocates argued, it’s a fundamental conflict of interest to have them prosecute police in court. Sharpton suggested the U.S. Department of Justice open an office specifically to handle such cases.
The planned march, Sharpton said, is the beginning of a "series of efforts that will lead to how we redo the grand jury review of policing in this country."