Decision in Garner Grand Jury Records Case Adds Fuel to New Yorkers’ Distrust of System

March 19, 2015 —  In response to a Staten Island judge’s decision to keep secret records from the Grand Jury which failed to indict an NYPD officer in the death of Eric Garner, the New York Civil Liberties Union issued the following statement. The NYCLU in December petitioned the court to release to the public the Grand Jury’s transcript, as well as the evidence presented and instructions the jury was given.

“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,” said NYCLU Legal Director Arthur Eisenberg. “Under the law, there is a presumption in favor of grand jury secrecy. But that presumption is not absolute. The court has the discretion to order disclosure under compelling circumstances which were certainly present here.”

Judge William E. Garnett rejected requests from the NYCLU, the Legal Aid Society, the public advocate’s office, The New York Post and the NAACP .

“The failure to indict the officer responsible for the death of Eric Garner has left many wondering if black lives even matter,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “Sadly, today’s decision will only leave many asking that same question again.”