The public will not know exactly what was said during the grand jury hearings that ended with a decision not to indict New York City Police Department officers in the choke hold death of Eric Garner. A judge on Thursday refused to release the testimony, the Associated Press reports.
According to AP, “The New York Civil Liberties Union and others had asked the court to order Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan to release the grand jury transcript, including the testimony of the officer involved, Daniel Pantaleo, and dozens of witnesses, detailed descriptions of evidence and other documentation.”
But New York Supreme Court Justice William Garnett said that those asking for the documents to be made public had failed to present a “compelling and particularized” argument.
“What would they use the minutes for? The only answer which the court heard was the possibility of effecting legislative change,” Garnett wrote, according to AP. “That proffered need is purely speculative and does not satisfy the requirements of the law.”
Garner’s widow, Esaw Garner, told the New York Daily News that she was disappointed by the judge's decision.
“Of course I’m upset about it,” Esaw Garner told the Daily News. “It means they have something to hide.”
On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner was approached by police for reportedly selling loose cigarettes. One of the officers, Daniel Pantaleo, put Garner in what appeared to be a choke hold, which was banned by the NYPD. The incident was captured on video that went viral, and Garner’s final words, “I can't breathe,” became a rallying cry against police brutality.
“The decision of the grand jurors in this case was theirs alone, after having heard all of the evidence, having been instructed on the law and having deliberated,” the judge wrote, according to the Daily News. “Their collective decision should not be impeached by unbridled speculation that the integrity of this grand jury was impaired in any way.”
NYCLU Legal Director Arthur Eisenberg told the Daily News that not releasing the documents doesn’t help in promoting transparency. “We are disappointed that the court has chosen to perpetuate secrecy rather than promote transparency. In doing so, the court has reinforced the distrust many New Yorkers already feel toward the performance of the criminal justice system in this case,” he said, according to the Daily News.