These Lyin’ Eyes? Cop’s Lawyer Says NYPD Surgeon Saw No Choke Hold in Eric Garner Death

Gwen Carr, Eric Garner’s mother, surrounded by supporters at an NYC rally in July 2018
Photo: Associated Press

The latest twist in the saga to hold New York City cop Daniel Pantaleo responsible in any way for Eric Garner’s death may be the ultimate example of the old saying, “Who you gonna trust? Me or your lyin’ eyes?”

In an announcement Thursday in advance of a New York Police Department hearing to decide whether Pantaleo used excessive force—a banned chokehold—Pantaleo’s lawyer, Stu London, said NYPD Chief Surgeon Eli Kleinman had viewed a video of Garner’s takedown and ultimate death by police and determined no chokehold was used.

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Really? Did Kleinman see the same thing the rest of the nation saw in a video of the fatal encounter that showed the Staten Island father of six pleading with cops, “I can’t breathe,” as he was floored and held to the ground? See the 1:25 mark of the video here:

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Sure looks like a chokehold to me, as well as to a whole lot of other people, including New York City’s Medical Examiner and a private coroner hired by the Garner family after his death.

But that’s not how Pantaleo and his team see it.

As the New York Daily News reports:

Kleinman concluded there were no injuries associated with a choke hold, including to Garner’s trachea, and that Garner’s poor health — he was obese and suffered from asthma, hypertension and diabetes — contributed to his death, London said.

“It basically exonerates Officer Pantaleo,” London, after the hearing, said of the Kleinman report. “It indicates that he didn’t use a choke hold. It indicates that the prior compromised cardiovascular system of [Garner] really is what lead to his demise. And it couldn’t be more positive for Officer Pantaleo.”

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As far as London is concerned, “resisting arrest” over Garner’s alleged sale of some loosies is what really cost him his life.

“[Garner] died by resisting arrest coupled with his compromised respiratory cardiovascular system,” London said, referencing the fact that Garner was overweight and suffered from asthma and diabetes, the Staten Island Advance reports. “It’s like a ticking time bomb. Had my client given him a bear hug as opposed to the way he took him down and just brought him down, he easily could have died also from exactly the same thing.”

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A bear hug? Wow.

Welp, in addition to the departmental charges, the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board has also filed charges against Pantaleo.

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CCRB Deputy Chief Prosecutor Suzanne D. O’Hare was harshly critical of both London and the NYPD chief surgeon, as the Staten Island Advance reports:

O’Hare slammed the defense and the NYPD’s chief surgeon for not actually reviewing the autopsy and only looking at the video.

O’Hare said because Kleinman had only reviewed the videos and not the autopsy, his testimony should be limited by the judge at the upcoming hearing.

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A grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo on criminal charges in Garner’s death, so we’ll have to wait to see if the NYPD trial provides any other result.

Pantaleo’s departmental trial is still set to go forward May 13.

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