How do Grand Juries work (split from Protests over Garner Grand Jury thread)

By: First Man
December 7th, 2014
4:43 pm

Originally Posted by NortheastCynic
Now we've got ourselves a conversation, First.

Acting under color of law is not the antithesis of negligent or malicious, First. In other words, acting under color of law does not preclude doing so in a negligent or reckless fashion.
You're mis-understanding. Those were two separate statements: Pantaleo acted without malice nor negligence, and he was also acting under the color of law and within departmental guidelines. I'm not saying that because it was under color of law, it somehow cannot be negligence nor malice. I certainly agree that police can act with malice and/or negligence while doing so under color of law, but that did not happen in this case.

Originally Posted by NortheastCynic
So that isn't an argument in favor the police; I'm not trying to be an asshole, but this just doesn't make sense. Beyond that, whether an act is reckless is a determination made by a jury, not the Grand Jury.
That's just silly. Grand juries make that determination all the time. Was it first degree murder or was it criminally-negligent homicide? They look at the statutes and the evidence and decide what charge, if any, should be brought.

Originally Posted by NortheastCynic
Again, this is progress. It no doubt started as a half-nelson and no doubt turned into a chokehold. And that chokehold, according to your naked eye, as well as a medical examiner cause the death of Eric Garner. Those are the facts.
I'm not so sure those are the facts at all. I've yet to find the actual autopsy report anywhere, not for lack of trying, but everything I can find says that the "choke-hold" MAY have been A contributing factor to the death, not a definitive proximate cause of the death. I can only assume that at some point, the medical examiner testified before the grand jury (they had something like 38 witnesses testify, IIRC). Based upon what I'm reading in the Michael Brown case, it seems completely reasonable to think that the grand jurors could have heard "maybe" and "might" and "contributing factor" and started trying to pin down the M.E., who, it sounds like, could not say firmly, definitively, that this "choke-hold" definitely caused the death, period, full-stop. And of course I don't know any of these people on the grand jury, but if I were in that room, I would be exceptionally skeptical, REGARDLESS of who is involved or why, if an M.E. cannot say "this caused the death."

Originally Posted by NortheastCynic
The "thrashing" (massively overstated though it may be) is an argument that is appropriately made at trial after a finding of probable cause. In other words, you're making an argument that is not the function of the grand jury. That's why we have trials.
Not at all. It's a determining factor as to whether a crime was actually committed. If there was no intent to put anyone into a choke-hold, no intent to cause harm, no negligence that led to harm occurring, no foreseeable consequence, then no crime occurred.

Originally Posted by NortheastCynic
You're talking about asphyxiation. I understand that Eric Garner did not asphyxiate. But I also understand that the hold in question killed him. That's all that matters for liability purposes, First, not how it killed him, but that it killed him.
The problem here is that it is not, at least at this point, established fact that the choke-hold caused the death.

Originally Posted by NortheastCynic
"Thug" comment aside, what you've done here is make a conclusion on the ultimate criminality, or in your view, lack thereof of the officer's action. That is not what a grand jury does. It determines whether there is probable cause, that test is nearly identical to the standard warranting an arrest (very, very low standard).
The primary function of a grand jury is to determine whether or not a crime has been committed, and then, if a crime has been committed, then whether the person(s) under grand jury investigation committed that crime. The grand jury in this case (as in the Michael Brown case) determined that there was not sufficient evidence to suggest that a crime was committed in the first place.

Originally Posted by NortheastCynic
So the problem here, First, is that a GJ suddenly becomes very, very stringent in determining PC when a cop is a putative defendant, and incredibly lax when it comes to, well everyone else (including and especially people of color). If this is John Q. Citizen and Jack Q. Citizen, we've got ourselves an indictment and a trial. Think about it, First, if an average citizen put another in a chokehold and he died as a result of that, is there any part of you that doubts that that person would be arrested? That's the standard we're talking about. And who knows what happens at a trial, but the point is we'd get one. That's why folks are pissed, and they're right to be. And you're right, people are emotional; and the reason why is the facts of this case are outrageous. The facts.
I think that's a not-unreasonable point, that X grand jury treats something one way, and Y grand jury treats something another way. This is actually why I said that a "special grand jury" (as this one was) would have made no difference in the Brown case: "special" or not, the grand jury in question would fundamentally be subject to the same rules. The more I read on the Brown case (I've got about six more witnesses to go), I think it was actually considerably more wise to use a grand jury that had already been empaneled for some time, experienced with the process, and confident enough to ask questions, be skeptical of witnesses, pin people down (including Wilson; his testimony was no cakewalk, nor that of his sergeant), etc. Are all grand juries the same? Do they get the same presentation? I rather doubt it. In most cases, it's a foregone conclusion because in most cases, there's already very little doubt about the guilt of the accused. Most crime is pretty straightforward: X robbed the convenience store, there were three witnesses who all tell essentially the same story, and X is on video pointing his gun at the clerk, etc. Relatively few cases that are handled by grand juries are high-profile cases; after all, in the grand scheme or all things crime, there are relatively few high-profile cases, period. That's what makes them high-profile cases, after all. Police shootings are, by definition, high-profile cases. Police shootings (and other, less-usual cases in which someone dies, such as Garner or cases in which someone dies from a taser or whatever) are actually relatively rare in the United States, hence why they make the news. We don't hear about the dozens and dozens of people killed in Chicago every weekend because it's so commonplace, it's not news. But when a cop shoots someone or has some other encounter that has a death associated with it (someone dies in jail, suicide or not, someone gets hurt or killed during a chase, etc.), it's all over at least the local news, if it doesn't go regional or national. And in any high-profile case where it isn't cut-and-dried, I don't think it's at all unreasonable to have a grand jury make the decision. I don't think that it's reasonable to claim that X ordinary civilian would not get a similar fair shake at a grand jury if the situation were the same. And that's the issue here: seldom will the situation actually be the same. Each case is different, and trying to point to any one, or even a few cases and saying "that's unfair treatment" just simply isn't accepting the fact that every case is different.


Originally Posted by NortheastCynic
On edit: I want to be clear on what I mean when I say the hold 'caused' his death. In order to be criminally culpable, the act in question has to be both the cause in-fact (the literal cause) and the proximate cause (the legal cause) of death. The point in posting about the eggshell skull rule was to point out that one is still legally responsible for their negligence or reckless, or even intentional behavior even if such behavior would have killed/injured someone absent a pre-existing condition that was not known to the defendant. It's undisputed that the hold killed Garner, that is, it was the cause in-fact. In order for the hold not to be the legal cause of his death there would have to have been some intervening factor that essentially would negate the fact that the defendant's action would have killed Garner. It's important to note that there is no evidence of that. The only thing left is an argument similar to what First was saying, that Garner's movement caused his death. The thing is, as I've mentioned, that's an argument you make during a proceeding where witnesses and competing evidence are weighed and an ultimate determination of guilt or innocence is determined. A trial. There is no excuse for a no-true-bill here.
Everything you say is predicated upon the bolded, and it simply is not true.

Join the Discussion!

42 comments on "How do Grand Juries work (split from Protests over Garner Grand Jury thread)"

  • NortheastCynic
    December 7, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    Hey First,
    I'm actually on the road, so I can't really respond fully, but I just wanted to respond to the issue re: what killed Garner. It is absolutely undisputed that the police's action killed Garner. The medical examiner was clear about that. The contributing factors that are mentioned are precisely what I had in mind when I posted the link detailing the eggshell skull rule. All a defendant's action has to do is hasten death. In other words, unless Garner's other health problems were going to kill him the very second he died, or in other, other words, unless the cop's actions did not hasten his death by a millisecond, the cop is legally culpable. Intent is not an element of involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide. I'll be back home and post a more detailed response likely tomorrow.

    Originally Posted by
    The cause of Eric Garner's death was compression of the neck, chest compression and being laid flat on the ground while officers restrained him, said Julie Bolcer, spokeswoman for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

  • rcclydeinside
    December 8, 2014 at 5:11 am

    Originally Posted by First Man
    Note that I am not saying that the NYPD could not have brought about the death of Eric Garner; indeed, I think that the arrest itself was the ultimate trigger for his heart attack. What I am saying is that one cannot specifically say that Pantaleo alone caused the death.
    You're right. Pantaleo alone did not cause Eric Garner's death.

    The other cops helped.

  • CdrMike
    December 8, 2014 at 5:25 am

    Originally Posted by rcclydeinside
    You're right. Pantaleo alone did not cause Eric Garner's death.

    The other cops helped.
    Yes, the medical examiner noted that Garner was not in the best of health. What did he ultimately rule? Homicide. Why did he do that? Because he could not prove, and indeed none of those who've supported the GJ's decision can either, that Garner would have died that very moment. So the actions of Pantaleo and the other officers contributed to Garner's death. And if anyone other than a cop had been responsible for wrestling Garner to the ground and holding him there until suffered a heart attack, he'd be looking at a minimum of second degree murder charges.

  • djharkavy
    December 8, 2014 at 7:33 am

    Originally Posted by CdrMike
    Yes, the medical examiner noted that Garner was not in the best of health. What did he ultimately rule? Homicide. Why did he do that? Because he could not prove, and indeed none of those who've supported the GJ's decision can either, that Garner would have died that very moment. So the actions of Pantaleo and the other officers contributed to Garner's death. And if anyone other than a cop had been responsible for wrestling Garner to the ground and holding him there until suffered a heart attack, he'd be looking at a minimum of second degree murder charges.
    But again, note that prosecutors often use grand juries for cover with police. Instead of an hour or two of evidence, they often present days or weeks of evidentiary hearings with an eye towards offering the police an 'out.' Often special grand juries are convened to hear a police case, and whereas the truism is that a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich, that is rarely the case with police officers.

  • NortheastCynic
    December 8, 2014 at 7:45 am

    First, I hope you don't mind if I take this out of order, because I think getting to the GJ's function is the biggest issue here:

    Originally Posted by FirstMan
    That's just silly. Grand juries make that determination all the time. Was it first degree murder or was it criminally-negligent homicide? They look at the statutes and the evidence and decide what charge, if any, should be brought.
    The DA only asked for manslaughter and negligent homicide. But beyond that, Grand Juries don't make determinations regarding the ultimate issue of liability, only if probable cause exists. Again, this is a low standard, and given the power the prosecutor enjoys in a GJ, it's found incredibly frequently. Essentially, any weighing of evidence or credibility is beyond the scope of a GJ, in the sense that DA's attempting to indict do not permit a GJ to do as much (via introduction of evidence in a selective matter).

    Originally Posted by
    I'm not so sure those are the facts at all. I've yet to find the actual autopsy report anywhere, not for lack of trying, but everything I can find says that the "choke-hold" MAY have been A contributing factor to the death, not a definitive proximate cause of the death. I can only assume that at some point, the medical examiner testified before the grand jury (they had something like 38 witnesses testify, IIRC). Based upon what I'm reading in the Michael Brown case, it seems completely reasonable to think that the grand jurors could have heard "maybe" and "might" and "contributing factor" and started trying to pin down the M.E., who, it sounds like, could not say firmly, definitively, that this "choke-hold" definitely caused the death, period, full-stop. And of course I don't know any of these people on the grand jury, but if I were in that room, I would be exceptionally skeptical, REGARDLESS of who is involved or why, if an M.E. cannot say "this caused the death."
    As I posted in my abbreviated response yesterday, the chokehold in addition to the Garner's positioning resulted in a finding of 'homicide'.

    Originally Posted by
    I think that's a not-unreasonable point, that X grand jury treats something one way, and Y grand jury treats something another way. This is actually why I said that a "special grand jury" (as this one was) would have made no difference in the Brown case: "special" or not, the grand jury in question would fundamentally be subject to the same rules. The more I read on the Brown case (I've got about six more witnesses to go), I think it was actually considerably more wise to use a grand jury that had already been empaneled for some time, experienced with the process, and confident enough to ask questions, be skeptical of witnesses, pin people down (including Wilson; his testimony was no cakewalk, nor that of his sergeant), etc. Are all grand juries the same? Do they get the same presentation? I rather doubt it. In most cases, it's a foregone conclusion because in most cases, there's already very little doubt about the guilt of the accused. Most crime is pretty straightforward: X robbed the convenience store, there were three witnesses who all tell essentially the same story, and X is on video pointing his gun at the clerk, etc. Relatively few cases that are handled by grand juries are high-profile cases; after all, in the grand scheme or all things crime, there are relatively few high-profile cases, period. That's what makes them high-profile cases, after all. Police shootings are, by definition, high-profile cases. Police shootings (and other, less-usual cases in which someone dies, such as Garner or cases in which someone dies from a taser or whatever) are actually relatively rare in the United States, hence why they make the news. We don't hear about the dozens and dozens of people killed in Chicago every weekend because it's so commonplace, it's not news. But when a cop shoots someone or has some other encounter that has a death associated with it (someone dies in jail, suicide or not, someone gets hurt or killed during a chase, etc.), it's all over at least the local news, if it doesn't go regional or national. And in any high-profile case where it isn't cut-and-dried, I don't think it's at all unreasonable to have a grand jury make the decision. I don't think that it's reasonable to claim that X ordinary civilian would not get a similar fair shake at a grand jury if the situation were the same. And that's the issue here: seldom will the situation actually be the same. Each case is different, and trying to point to any one, or even a few cases and saying "that's unfair treatment" just simply isn't accepting the fact that every case is different.
    The point is not that different situations are treated differently, the point is that the standard for "probable cause" suddenly begins to look more like "beyond a reasonable doubt" when police are facing a grand jury. Grand juries are mechanical means to get a defendant to trial when you're talking about civilians. And I reject the notion that most homicides (if we're comparing like to like) are simple. Contradictory evidence is nothing new (not that there is any here), and yet folks get indicted everyday when such evidence exists. That's because a DA that is actually attempting to get an indictment will simply not introduce that evidence at grand jury and make an argument at trial. That's the system for non-cop defendants. Because of the closeness of DA's offices to the police, however, that process changes. You get instances like here where the defendant cop was allowed to testify at length before the GJ. That is highly unusual. It's similarly highly unusual for GJs to question witnesses. This is the case simply because DAs usually present evidence to a GJ to make it appear to be an open-and-shut case in order to get an indictment. That isn't the case when a cop is the defendant. So this isn't a matter of different situations being treated differently, it's the process as a whole becoming more stringent simply because a cop is the putative defendant.

    Now, as to the cause of death:

    Originally Posted by
    Everything you say is predicated upon the bolded, and it simply is not true.
    Originally Posted by
    It is disputed that the choke-hold killed Garner. Even your own citation shows this dispute. It's carefully-worded to include:

    Quote:
    Garner's acute and chronic bronchial asthma, obesity and hypertensive cardiovascular disease were contributing factors, the medical examiner determined.
    but even that is tempered by the opinion that:

    Quote:
    The medical examiner said compression of the neck and chest, along with Garner's positioning on the ground while being restrained by police during the July 17 stop on Staten Island, caused his death.
    Pantaleo did not do any compression of the chest, so far as I can see. So obviously there were far more "proximate causes," if you (the Royal You) can even call it that, for Garner's death.



    Note that I am not saying that the NYPD could not have brought about the death of Eric Garner; indeed, I think that the arrest itself was the ultimate trigger for his heart attack. What I am saying is that one cannot specifically say that Pantaleo alone caused the death.
    Looking at the video, Officer Pantaleo appears exert a good deal of pressure on Garner and appears to put his weight on Garner's side as he is on the ground, but let's say that wasn't enough to kill him. If this is the theory the DA's office worked under, this actually makes the situation more outrageous. The other cops on site were offered immunity to secure their GJ testimony. So, if the DA thought that Garner was killed as a result of a combination of the actions of all of the cops involved, it knowingly gave the cops immunity in order to ostensibly pursue charges against Pantaleo, and then presented evidence that suggested it wasn't just that officer's actions alone that resulted in Garner's death. In other words, if the DA believed that Pantaleo's actions was insufficient to kill Garner alone, gave the others immunity, and then presented evidence tending to support the theory that the combined actions killed Garner, then the DA spiked the indictment. And if that is the case, then this is worse than everyone thought.

    If this theory that the officers' actions combined to kill Garner, then the DA should have charged the lot of them. It is not the law that if you and a collective of others all act in such a way to cause a death, then no one is liable. So, if you're theory is correct, then the DA spiked this indictment.

  • First Man
    December 8, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Originally Posted by NortheastCynic
    First, I hope you don't mind if I take this out of order, because I think getting to the GJ's function is the biggest issue here:

    The DA only asked for manslaughter and negligent homicide.
    I was speaking generally, not on this specific case.

    Originally Posted by NortheastCynic
    But beyond that, Grand Juries don't make determinations regarding the ultimate issue of liability, only if probable cause exists. Again, this is a low standard, and given the power the prosecutor enjoys in a GJ, it's found incredibly frequently. Essentially, any weighing of evidence or credibility is beyond the scope of a GJ, in the sense that DA's attempting to indict do not permit a GJ to do as much (via introduction of evidence in a selective matter).
    I would submit that grand juries do indeed make a determination of the ultimate issue of liability if they choose not to indict.

    Originally Posted by NortheastCynic
    As I posted in my abbreviated response yesterday, the chokehold in addition to the Garner's positioning resulted in a finding of 'homicide'.
    Everyone keeps throwing an M.E.'s finding of homicide around as if it's some sort of magic talisman. It's not. Homicide ≠ murder or manslaughter. It is simply a finding that one person's death was likely brought about by another person. There are all sorts of ways that a death can be a homicide and it still not be a case of someone doing something illegal.

    Originally Posted by NortheastCynic
    The point is not that different situations are treated differently, the point is that the standard for "probable cause" suddenly begins to look more like "beyond a reasonable doubt" when police are facing a grand jury.
    OK, so we're basically back to "I don't like the outcome, therefore the entire system is unfair." I'm sorry, but that's how this reads to me.

    Originally Posted by NortheastCynic
    That's because a DA that is actually attempting to get an indictment will simply not introduce that evidence at grand jury and make an argument at trial.
    That would be an unwise choice.

    Originally Posted by NortheastCynic
    That's the system for non-cop defendants. Because of the closeness of DA's offices to the police, however, that process changes.
    This supposed "closeness" is far more apocryphal than reality.

    Originally Posted by NortheastCynic
    You get instances like here where the defendant cop was allowed to testify at length before the GJ. That is highly unusual.
    The only reason that it's unusual is that it's most often not in the defendant's best interest to testify before the grand jury.

    Originally Posted by NortheastCynic
    It's similarly highly unusual for GJs to question witnesses.
    Now this I don't buy one bit. I know for a fact that grand jurors have always been encouraged to question witnesses around here. And whether it's encouraged or not, any grand juror certainly has the option to ask any witness any question that they want (within reason, of course).

    Originally Posted by NortheastCynic
    This is the case simply because DAs usually present evidence to a GJ to make it appear to be an open-and-shut case in order to get an indictment. That isn't the case when a cop is the defendant.
    Sure, a DA may well want an open-and shut case, and more often than not, that's what it is anyway, but that doesn't mean that every case is that way.

    Originally Posted by NortheastCynic
    So this isn't a matter of different situations being treated differently, it's the process as a whole becoming more stringent simply because a cop is the putative defendant.
    Sorry. I'm not buying that soap, either.

    Originally Posted by NortheastCynic
    Now, as to the cause of death:

    Looking at the video, Officer Pantaleo appears exert a good deal of pressure on Garner and appears to put his weight on Garner's side as he is on the ground, but let's say that wasn't enough to kill him. If this is the theory the DA's office worked under, this actually makes the situation more outrageous. The other cops on site were offered immunity to secure their GJ testimony. So, if the DA thought that Garner was killed as a result of a combination of the actions of all of the cops involved, it knowingly gave the cops immunity in order to ostensibly pursue charges against Pantaleo, and then presented evidence that suggested it wasn't just that officer's actions alone that resulted in Garner's death. In other words, if the DA believed that Pantaleo's actions was insufficient to kill Garner alone, gave the others immunity, and then presented evidence tending to support the theory that the combined actions killed Garner, then the DA spiked the indictment. And if that is the case, then this is worse than everyone thought.

    If this theory that the officers' actions combined to kill Garner, then the DA should have charged the lot of them. It is not the law that if you and a collective of others all act in such a way to cause a death, then no one is liable. So, if you're theory is correct, then the DA spiked this indictment.
    Maybe he did, but that seems rather pointless. It would have heen a lot easier to simply not bring charges at all.

  • NortheastCynic
    December 8, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Originally Posted by First
    I would submit that grand juries do indeed make a determination of the ultimate issue of liability if they choose not to indict.
    By negative implication, sure; the point was that in considering evidence their job is not generally to weigh credibility or conflicting information. I stand corrected re: NY as far as exculpatory evidence goes, but probable cause still does not equal liability.

    Originally Posted by
    Everyone keeps throwing an M.E.'s finding of homicide around as if it's some sort of magic talisman. It's not. Homicide ≠ murder or manslaughter. It is simply a finding that one person's death was likely brought about by another person. There are all sorts of ways that a death can be a homicide and it still not be a case of someone doing something illegal.
    And you're treating it as though it doesn't matter. The police killed Eric Garner. That's what the ME's findings mean. The police killed a man who presented no threat to the lives of any of them. The ME's findings simply highlights the fact that either this officer or these officers killed Eric Garner. That, again, is not in dispute, and that is why the eggshell skull come into play. It means that the health problems Garner had don't let the defendant off the hook. That's a matter of law, not my opinion. Let's not pretend as though the evidence isn't fairly overwhelming. The cop's actions in putting the man in a chokehold and piling on his side and back resulted in his death. If the cop/s want to argue that they had to do what they did, that's why we have trials. It is not the role of a prosecutor or grand jury to become the putative defendant's defense attorney during the GJ process. That's not how the system works.

    Originally Posted by
    OK, so we're basically back to "I don't like the outcome, therefore the entire system is unfair." I'm sorry, but that's how this reads to me.
    That's no more my argument than yours is "I agree with the result, therefore the system works." Again, there's a reason why 99% of GJs produce indictments, NY's idiosyncrasies notwithstanding. It's because the GJ process stacks the decks against the putative defendant. Except here (and elsewhere where police are involved) it didn't. The entire system was unfair before Garner for a legion of reasons, and it will be unfair after Garner for a legion of reasons. This is just one particular reason.

    Originally Posted by
    This supposed "closeness" is far more apocryphal than reality.
    That's just not true. The closeness is very real, and people who work in and around the system know as much.

    Originally Posted by
    The only reason that it's unusual is that it's most often not in the defendant's best interest to testify before the grand jury.
    And that is only the case where the DA or prosecuting attorney does not have a close relationship with the defendant. That is not the case when the defendant is a cop.

    Originally Posted by
    Now this I don't buy one bit. I know for a fact that grand jurors have always been encouraged to question witnesses around here. And whether it's encouraged or not, any grand juror certainly has the option to ask any witness any question that they want (within reason, of course).
    From everything I've heard it's extremely rare. There are no stats because grand juries are secretive and their records are sealed. But first hand and second hand, I know it to be very rare. And it's worth noting that the only person who could 'encourage' these jurors to ask questions is the prosecuting attorney, since he is the only attorney in the room. This is yet another way a prosecutor can influence the jury.

    Originally Posted by
    Sure, a DA may well want an open-and shut case, and more often than not, that's what it is anyway, but that doesn't mean that every case is that way.
    That isn't what I said. I didn't say it was an open-and-shut case, I'm saying that's how it will be presented in order to secure an indictment and move on. That's how the system works for non-cops. For cops, it works differently. That's where the outrage comes in.

    Originally Posted by
    Sorry. I'm not buying that soap, either.
    Most people don't, that's why it will keep happening. People don't want to believe that the system works differently for cops. It does. People kill people every day, and every day conflicting witness statements exist in those cases, and evidence that weakens the case exists, and people are indicted. Every day. It's simply what happens. That isn't my opinion, it's a fact. Unfortunately, there is no magic statistic (beyond the amazingly high rate of indictments) to convey that, only knowledge of how the system works on a practical, day-to-day basis.

    Originally Posted by
    Maybe he did, but that seems rather pointless. It would have heen a lot easier to simply not bring charges at all.
    Maybe he did? Maybe he intentionally allowed potentially culpable defendants to avoid a grand jury? That's not a small concession. That would be significantly worse than the theory that the GJ simply took the cop at his word that he didn't mean to do anything wrong and didn't do anything out of the ordinary during an arrest (the chokehold aside, apparently). Either way, that doesn't make any sense. We've got a homicide. We have a defined group of potential defendants. Either one of them is culpable or the lot of them combined to commit the homicide. Charging none of them is not an option. Not charging them is the equivalent of saying: Yes, these men killed Eric Garner, but there is no reason to believe that any of them engaged in any negligent, reckless, or intentional behavior to do so. The chokehold alone violated NYPD regulations, which would set the standard of care to some degree, that's nearly negligence per se (at best). Not charging them would contradict the facts of the case to a cartoonish degree.

    Ultimately it's like this. Someone killed Eric Garner, whether it was one of the cops or the cops combined. Their actions resulted in his death, period. One officer engaged Garner with a chokehold. That chokehold, combined with the way Garner was positioned, by that officer and his compatriots resulted in his death. All facts; we've got a medical examiner saying as much, and a video to watch. Every, single, day, there are civilian cases that go to trial on a fraction of that kind of evidence. That too is a fact. People familiar with the criminal justice system know that, and those that aren't/don't are won't believe it. The protests aren't about convincing the latter, it's about raising awareness of a fact. It's this simple: if you believe that grand juries are real hurdles that prosecutors have to jump through to get to a trial, you're wrong. They simply aren't. And today, a few thousand more people will be indicted after an hour of evidentiary presentations and prove that fact all over again. The thing is First, most folks have nothing to compare Garner to as it relates to what an indictable case looks like. When they defend this no-true-bill they can't look to another case and say, if X wasn't indicted, then this make sense. Folks on the other side know just how easily civilians can be indicted with less damning evidence.

    Really, it's this simple: If you understand that a prosecutor can effectively secure an indictment whenever s/he wants to, you're outraged by this decision. If you think the GJ serves the purpose of stringently filtering cases, you think the system works. The latter is a myth, it's not a secret among the legal community. The evidence to the contrary is nonexistent.

  • djharkavy
    December 8, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Originally Posted by NortheastCynic
    If you think the GJ serves the purpose of stringently filtering cases, you think the system works. The latter is a myth, it's not a secret among the legal community. The evidence to the contrary is nonexistent.
    I disagree.

    It does, albeit indirectly. Prosecutors plead down cases, or choose not to bring them to grand jury fairly often. The system prevents those cases from just going forward on the prosecutors say-so. Essentially it is a check against an indictment with no evidence.

  • NortheastCynic
    December 8, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Originally Posted by djharkavy
    I disagree.

    It does, albeit indirectly. Prosecutors plead down cases, or choose not to bring them to grand jury fairly often. The system prevents those cases from just going forward on the prosecutors say-so. Essentially it is a check against an indictment with no evidence.
    No evidence, sure. It's a rare felony charge that is backed by no evidence. The point is that if you have some evidence of criminality, you're getting an indictment. The numbers back that up.

  • CdrMike
    December 8, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    Originally Posted by NortheastCynic
    No evidence, sure. It's a rare felony charge that is backed by no evidence. The point is that if you have some evidence of criminality, you're getting an indictment. The numbers back that up.
    Indeed. And the same WaPo article that noted 99.9% of cases taken to grand juries come back with indictments went on to note that not all those cases went to trial, as some cases were either plead out or the prosecutor didn't feel the case solid enough to attain a conviction. So if the DAs in cases involving cops are failing to come back with indictments, then that would either seem to indicate that they never wanted indictments or that the system is prejudiced in favor of cops.



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