Civil rights groups, public officials and the New York Post on Thursday pressed a Staten Island judge to release grand jury testimony that could show why a Staten Island panel failed to indict Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in connection with the August death of Eric Garner.
The ruling has the potential to change the centuries-old tradition of grand jury secrecy, and subject police to more public scrutiny.
In December, a grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo in Garner’s death, continuing a wave of protests that started a week and a half earlier after a Ferguson, Mo., police officer was not indicted for the shooting death of Michael Brown.
Public officials, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, have called for more grand jury transparency since the decision was announced.
“The bottom line is, we’ll all use it to inform, to help understand what went right and what went wrong and the role of the district attorney in the legal proceedings,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU, one of the organizations petitioning for the release of documents. “If there was ever a case to shed a little bit of sunlight, this is it.”
Staten Island DA Daniel Donovan was “dismissive” of the public’s right and need to know, Lieberman said.
Papers submitted by the DA’s office express concern about a “chilling effect” on cooperative witnesses if records are released, AP reported.
The other organizations asking for the documents and transcripts are the Legal Aid Society and local NAACP chapters.
Judge William Garnett will render his opinion on a future date.