Wednesday, December 3, 2014

No justice for Eric Garner -- officer avoids indictment despite choking man to death

Video evidence suggests that a jury trial was more than justifiable following Garner’s death

A New York City police officer who put Eric Garner in a lethal chokehold, a move that ultimately ended Garner’s life, will not face formal charges for his actions.

A grand jury determined that the officer, who used a chokehold maneuver that had been banned by NYPD for more than 20 years, would not face indictment for taking Garner’s life earlier this summer.

This is the second high profile incident of a white officer avoiding indictment from a grand jury for killing an unarmed black civilian in nearly as many weeks. On November 24, Officer Darren Wilson of Ferguson, Missouri, also faced indictment for shooting teenager Michael Brown. The grand jury there ultimately determined that Wilson would not face charges for his actions.

The situation in Ferguson became an instance of “he-said, she-said” as no documentable evidence (such as video recording) exists of the episode. Still, much of the grand jury proceedings remain concerning, and criticisms mounted shortly after the decision about the process.

Eric Garner’s death, however, was less clouded -- video of the officer placing him in a chokehold and ultimately killing him went viral this summer. Most casual observers of that video, I would assume, would agree that Garner’s actions (he allegedly was selling untaxed cigarettes) didn’t warrant a death sentence.

I have nothing but the highest respect for law enforcement officers. They put their lives on the line every day they go to work. That commitment deserves our respect and our gratitude.

They are not above the law, however, and I believe that 99.999 percent of them agree. When officers commit crimes, they, too, deserve to answer to the court of law for their actions.

It’s clear that Eric Garner wasn’t a physical threat to anyone around him. Video evidence shows us that an officer’s actions, improper ones at that, ended his life prematurely. But that officer will not face a jury of his peers because of those actions.

That’s more than just unfortunate; it’s a grave injustice. The system failed Eric Garner and his family, and it’s in dire need of repair following today’s decision.

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