Judge orders city to turn over internal NYPD records in Ramarley Graham case

August 8, 2018
Graham Rayman
New York Daily News

A Manhattan judge has ordered the NYPD to turn over internal documents surrounding the 2012 police shooting of 17-year-old Ramarley Graham, a ruling that could have implications that transcend this particular case.

Police officer Richard Haste shot Graham after bursting into his apartment thinking the teen was armed. No gun was found. Haste quit after his departmental trial on misconduct charges in 2017.

Graham’s mother Constance Malcolm has demanded the department discipline other cops involved and turn over records in the case.

She sued in 2017, after her document requests were repeatedly rebuffed by the de Blasio administration and NYPD.

In his July 31 ruling, Supreme Court Judge Manuel Mendez directed the city to turn over dozens of records from the case, though he barred a significant number from disclosure, citing Freedom of Information exemptions and Section 50-a of state civil rights law, a provision the city has interpreted to prohibit the disclosure of all NYPD personnel records.

Included in the wide array of documents and records are Haste’s trial transcript, recordings of the police, civilian witness interviews and police reports.

“There is a public interest in Ramarley Graham’s family obtaining the records to obtain clarity and closure concerning the events of Feb. 2, 2012,” Mendez wrote in the ruling.

The city sought the blanket withholding of the records, but Mendez did a careful inspection of the documents and directed the bulk of them released, though he ordered certain identifying information blacked out.

Mendez had signaled in December that he would order the city to release records. The city now has 30 days to turn over the documents.

“The NYPD should have released these files years ago,” Malcolm said. “It’s outrageous, but under de Blasio’s NYPD, it’s not surprising that I had to sue to get information related to the murder of my son and that they’ve fought the release of these files for so long. I am glad Judge Mendez has ruled in my favor and that he saw through the NYPD's lies.”

The ruling could buttress arguments that the city’s reading of Section 50-a is too broad.

Gideon Oliver, the family lawyer, said the decision gives the city an opportunity to re-examine its broad stance on 50-a.

“The department took the position that 50-a covered almost everything — including the transcript of the trial and the witness statements,” Oliver said. “Those aspects of the decisions could certainly point the way for the de Blasio administration towards not viewing 50-a so expansively.”

Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said Mendez’s decision is a “clear rejection of the city’s position that section 50-a gives it a blanket exemption to withhold documents from the public.”

“We have no confidence that this ruling will change the City’s behavior,” he said. “That will only happen if the law is repealed or the state’s highest court orders the City to end its shameful practice.”

A spokesman for the city Law Department said Tuesday that the ruling was still under review.


Topics: Ramarley Graham