Court Hears Oral Arguments in the Lawsuit Seeking Judicial Inquiry into Eric Garner’s Killing; Family and Organizers Demand de Blasio Drop the Appeal
Yesterday, the NYS Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, heard oral arguments in Carr v. de Blasio, the lawsuit seeking a historic judicial inquiry into Eric Garner’s killing, the cover-up that continues to this day, and the related refusal to fire officers who engaged in misconduct related to the killing.
As part of the judicial inquiry, Mayor Bill de Blasio, former NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, and other City officials could be made to take the stand regarding their neglect and violations of duties following the killing of Eric Garner. The judicial inquiry is scheduled to begin July 19, 2021, but the City is still trying to stop the judicial inquiry from moving forward by attempting to appeal a September 2020 decision by the lower court allowing the judicial inquiry to proceed. Yesterday’s oral arguments were regarding the City’s appeal.
Petitioners in the case include Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner; Ellisha Flagg-Garner, sister of Eric Garner; Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham; Loyda Colon of Justice Committee; Joo-Hyun Kang of Communities United for Police Reform; Monifa Bandele of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement; Mark Winston Griffith of Brooklyn Movement Center; and Kesi Foster of Make the Road New York.
Alvin Bragg, Visiting Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Racial Justice Project at New York Law School, argued on behalf of the petitioners.
The petitioners’ legal team also includes Gideon Oliver, civil rights attorney and past President of the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, and Rachel Welt, Lewis Steel Racial Justice Fellow at NYLS.
Below are statements from Gwen Carr, Loyda Colon, and lawyers for the petitioners, Alvin Bragg and Gideon Oliver, regarding today’s oral arguments:
"Last month a judge said that the judicial inquiry into the NYPD killing of my son, Eric Garner, could go forward and even set a date for it to take place," said Gwen Carr (she/her), mother of Eric Garner. "But Mayor de Blasio is still trying to delay and appeal—attempting to stop the investigation from going forward. Mayor de Blasio likes to talk about how other cities need to hold their police officers accountable for killings and misconduct but refuses to do the same when NYPD officers kill New Yorkers, like my son. It's been almost 7 years since Eric was killed, my family and I deserve answers. Mayor de Blasio needs to drop the appeal and fire Officer Justin D’Amico, Lt. Christopher Bannon and others, today."
"It is unacceptable that Mayor de Blasio routinely gets on social media and tweets about police killings and violence in other cities but refuses to acknowledge his own complicity in the NYPD's violence right here in New York," said Loyda Colon (they/them), spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform and Executive Director of the Justice Committee. "It looks like we'll be seeing the City in court in July and Mayor de Blasio's legal tricks and attempts to delay will not stop us from fighting for transparency into Eric Garner's murder, and the cover up following it, and for accountability at every level. Mayor de Blasio needs to drop the appeal and fire the officers responsible for killing Eric Garner, including Officer Justin D'Amico and Lt. Christopher Bannon, immediately.”
“It is disturbing that, on the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, the Mayor called out injustice in Minnesota, but had his lawyers in court opposing, yet again, justice and accountability for Eric Garner’s family,” said Alvin Bragg and Gideon Oliver, lawyers for the petitioners. “We look forward to the summary inquiry on July 19 finally delivering some level of transparency about so many key issues concerning Mr. Garner’s death.”
NEXT STEPS: While the City’s appeal is ongoing, elements of the case are continuing in the lower court. The next court date is a discovery hearing before Justice Erika M. Edwards of New York State Supreme Court on June 9 at 10:00 a.m. In addition, the judicial inquiry is currently scheduled to begin on July 19.
A historic petition was filed in August 2019, demanding a judicial inquiry into the violation and neglect of duty by Mayor de Blasio, NYPD Commissioner O’Neill, and others related to the unjust killing of Eric Garner. The New York Law School Racial Justice Project and the Law Offices of Gideon Oliver filed the petition on behalf of Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, Ellisha Flagg-Garner, sister of Eric Garner, Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham, Loyda Colon of Justice Committee, Joo-Hyun Kang of Communities United for Police Reform, Monifa Bandele of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Mark Winston Griffith of Brooklyn Movement Center, and Kesi Foster of Make the Road New York. The petition was brought under Section 1109 of the New York City Charter, a “sunlight” provision.
The City moved to dismiss the lawsuit. On September 24, 2020, Justice Joan A. Madden issued a decision allowing a judicial inquiry to move forward with respect to alleged violations and neglect of duty in connection with: (1) the stop, arrest, and use of force against Mr. Garner; (2) the filing of false official documents concerning Mr. Garner's arrest; (3) the leaking of Mr. Garner's alleged arrest history and medical condition in the autopsy report; and (4) the alleged lack of medical care provided to Mr. Garner by police officers.
The City filed a notice of appeal, and during conferences with the Court, argued that it was entitled to an “automatic stay” halting all proceedings in the matter during the course of its appeal. Following arguments on that question, on December 23, 2020, the Court ruled that the “automatic stay” was not triggered and ordered the parties to move forward with further proceedings. Following Justice Madden’s retirement from the bench, Justice Erika M. Edwards was assigned to preside over the case.
On February 12, 2021, the City filed a motion with the Appellate Division, First Department, the appeals court, seeking to stay the judicial inquiry. On March 23, 2021, the First Department denied this request. The First Department heard the appeal on May 25, 2021.
In addition to the petition brought under Section 1109, the petitioners submitted a Freedom of Information Law request to the NYPD and the Civilian Complaint Review Board relating to Mr. Garner’s arrest and killing.
About Communities United for Police Reform
Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end abusive and discriminatory policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and reduces reliance on policing. CPR runs coalitions of over 200 local, statewide and national organizations, bringing together a movement of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists to work for change. The partners in this campaign come from all 5 boroughs, from all walks of life and represent many of those most unfairly targeted by the NYPD.
About the New York Law School Racial Justice Project
The Racial Justice Project is a legal advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the constitutional and civil rights of people who have been denied their rights on the basis of race, and to increasing public awareness of racism and racial injustice in the areas of education, employment, political participation, economic inequality, and criminal justice. The Project’s work includes impact litigation, appellate advocacy, legislative advocacy, training, and public education.
About Communities United for Police Reform
Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and reduces reliance on policing. CPR runs coalitions of over 200 local, statewide and national organizations, bringing together a movement of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists to work for change. The partners in this campaign come from all 5 boroughs, from all walks of life and represent many of those most unfairly targeted by the NYPD.Topics: Eric Garner