Metropolitan Black Bar Association Calls for Change: Demands Dan Donovan, the Staten Island District Attorney Be Transparent in the Grand Jury Trial of Eric Garner

New York, NY — The Metropolitan Black Bar Association (MBBA) joins the National Bar Association (NBA) in questioning how a Staten Island Grand Jury, considering the evidence presented before them, could reach the conclusion not to indict Daniel Pantaleo, a New York Police Officer involved in the death of Eric Garner.

On July 17, 2014, a video recorded by a bystander shows Officer Pantaleo placing a chokehold around Garner's neck with his arm, while trying to restrain Garner with other officers. In the video, once he was restrained on the ground during the arrest, Garner can be heard telling officers, "I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”

"The decision by the Staten Island Grand Jury brings a great level of disappointment, as justice for yet another black unarmed male goes unanswered," stated Pamela Meanes, President of the NBA. "Within a week, this country has now been devastated with the lack of addressing issues of inequality and racial bias in policing, the justice system, and violence against members of minority communities,” says President Meanes.

How can a grand jury not indict on the charges presented by the prosecutor where a primary part of the evidence is video showing a police officer employing a tactic that is banned by his department specifically because of its potential lethality? "The citizens of the City of New York and the Nation understandably question how the District Attorney's office handled the investigation and presentment of this matter to the grand jury," questions Taa Grays, President of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association.

In the wake of the Garner decision, the Ferguson decision last week, and the killing of yet another innocent and unarmed black man by a rookie NYPD officer in the stairwell of his Brooklyn residence, the MBBA is deeply concerned. Together with the NBA, we question whether, under the current legal standard, a victim of excessive and/or deadly force by the hands of a police officer in America can receive fair and equal justice.

“These actions also speak to the ongoing demonization of the black male by certain segments of our society whereby our fathers, brothers and sons are perceived as a threat first and a human being last, President Grays added. “While ultimately we aspire to a place of mutual understanding and respect, clearly that must be preceded by accountability”.

The MBBA is calling on Dan Donovan to continue to release information as authorized by the New York State Supreme Court about the matter including the transcript and the exhibits on the Eric Garner Case. Local district attorneys like Staten Island’s Daniel Donovan, who presented the evidence in this case, are too close to law enforcement to effectively handle such cases. An independent prosecutor would significantly increase the public confidence in grand jury decisions. MBBA stands ready and is committed to continue to fight for change, and reform including the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate cases of police killings of civilians.

About the Metropolitan Black Bar Association (MBBA):

The Metropolitan Black Bar Association (MBBA), a unified citywide association of over 1000 African-American and other minority lawyers members and supporters, who advance equality and excellence in the pursuit of justice, aid the progress of Blacks and other minorities in the profession, address legal issues affecting the citywide community, and foster the study of law by encouraging the personal and professional development of young lawyers and law students.