The New York Civil Liberties Union today requested that the New York Court of Appeals review a lower court’s decision to keep secret records from the Grand Jury which failed to indict an NYPD officer in the death of Eric Garner. The lack of accountability for Eric Garner’s death dramatically shook the public’s confidence in the grand jury system and subsequently prompted conflicting policy proposals, including and up to abolishing the grand jury system altogether.
“New Yorkers have insisted on reform since the Eric Garner Grand Jury decision, and they and their representatives need to know what if anything is broken before they attempt to fix the problem,” said NYCLU Legal Director Arthur Eisenberg. “Without understanding how or why the Grand Jury reached its decision, major policy discussions on grand jury reform with potentially lasting implications are taking place blindly. So much is at stake regarding criminal justice reform in this case that the public’s need to know what happened outweighs any current interest in maintaining the secrecy of the Garner proceedings.”
The NYCLU is seeking release to the public of the Grand Jury’s transcript, as well as the evidence presented and the instructions the jury was given. Today’s request to the State Court of Appeals contends that the public cannot make necessary decisions on major, wide-ranging reforms that have been proposed specifically to address the Garner grand jury’s conduct, without itself knowing exactly how the grand jury proceedings were conducted.
“No one has been held accountable for the death of Eric Garner and the community doesn’t know why,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “As New Yorkers continue to demand answers and ask if black lives matter, we hope the court will put an end to the secrecy surrounding the Garner Grand Jury records and provide transparency that is a first step in rebuilding people’s trust in the criminal justice system.”