Days After Anniversary of Eric Garner’s Killing, Gwen Carr and Organizers Call on Mayor de Blasio to Stop Blocking Transparency in Judicial Inquiry
Justice Erika M. Edwards says the City will be ordered to provide documents and records as a part of discovery in the case
Yesterday, New York State Supreme Court Justice Erika M. Edwards heard arguments for why Mayor de Blasio and other top City officials should be made to testify in the historic judicial inquiry into Eric Garner’s killing. The petition for the judicial inquiry was brought by Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, and others to investigate the violations and neglect of duties by Mayor de Blasio and other City officials regarding the killing of Mr. Garner, their failure to conduct thorough investigations and discipline all NYPD officers responsible for misconduct, and the related cover-up.
Justice Edwards plans to issue an order later this week regarding limited discovery in the case, and might also rule on which witnesses may testify as part of the judicial inquiry. Petitioners are calling for high-level officials, such as Mayor de Blasio, NYPD Commissioners, and other top City officials to take the stand as part of the case. The judicial Inquiry is currently scheduled to begin on October 25th.
The petition for the judicial inquiry was filed 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 (CPR); Monifa Bandele of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement; Mark Winston Griffith of Brooklyn Movement Center; and Kesi Foster of Make the Road New York, against the Mayor of New York City, the NYPD Police Commissioner, and other New York City officials.
Below are statements from Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner; Loyda Colon, Executive Director of the Justice Committee; and Monifa Bandele, spokesperson for CPR.
Alvin Bragg, Co-Director of New York Law School’s (NYLS) Racial Justice Project; Gideon Oliver, police misconduct attorney and a past President of the New York City Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild; Rachel Welt, New York Law School Lewis Steel Racial Justice Fellow; and Davis Polk & Wardwell are co-counsel for the Petitioners.
“This past weekend Mayor de Blasio tweeted about my son Eric Garner saying his legacy makes New York City a safer and more just place, yet the Mayor is continuing to deny my family any type of justice and accountability 7 years after Eric was murdered,” said Gwen Carr (she/her), mother of Eric Garner. “My family and I have been fighting for the better part of a decade for answers and for all the cops responsible for Eric’s murder and the cover-up that followed, to be fired from the NYPD. Mayor de Blasio should be ashamed, invoking Eric’s name and claiming this City is more just and safe, when officers like Lt. Christopher Bannon who texted it was ‘no big deal’ that Eric was killed or Justin Damico, who lied about the reason for the unconstitutional stop they used against my son, are still on the force. Mayor de Blasio and his administration need to stop hiding information, he needs to fire ALL the officers like Damico, Bannon, Adonis, and others, and stop blocking transparency so we can finally see just how high up this cover-up goes.”
“Mayor de Blasio tweeted about the anniversary of Eric Garner’s killing on Saturday while his Law Department is actively hiding records and information that we have been seeking as part of this judicial inquiry for months,” said Loyda Colon (they/them), Executive Director of the Justice Committee and petitioner in Carr v. de Blasio. “Mayor de Blasio’s words are insulting to the family of Eric Garner when the City has done everything they can to try and stop this judicial inquiry from going forward and block transparency. Their appeal was denied and after 7 excruciating years—longer than any family should have to wait for basic answers—it’s time for Mayor de Blasio and the City to stop hiding critical information and fire all the officers who helped kill Eric Garner and cover it up.”
“Eric Garner’s words ‘I can’t breathe’ have become an international rallying cry to end police brutality throughout the world. It’s shameful that despite years-long calls for justice and accountability, Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD have not yet fired, or even disciplined, all the officers who were responsible for his killing and the cover-up,” said Monifa Bandele (she/her), spokesperson for CPR, member of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and petitioner in Carr v. de Blasio. “We’re calling on Mayor de Blasio and other top officials to take the stand because we know the misconduct and wrongdoing goes all the way to the top. The City must stop hiding information and start providing answers. It’s long past time that Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD fire Officer Justin Damico, Lt. Christopher Bannon, Sgt Saminath, Officers Furlani, Ramos and all others.”
NEXT STEPS: Justice Erika M. Edwards of the NYS Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling on limited discovery and the date of the next court hearing, and may rule on issues related to the potential witness list. The judicial inquiry is currently scheduled to begin on October 25.
On August 27, 2019, the New York Law School Racial Justice Project and the Law Offices of Gideon Oliver filed a historic 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, against the Mayor of New York City, the NYPD Police Commissioner, and other New York City officials. The petition was brought under Section 1109 of the New York City Charter, a “sunlight” provision.
After the City moved to dismiss the lawsuit, Justice Joan A. Madden issued a decision on September 24, 2020, 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.
Unhappy with the court’s decision, the City tried to block the petition by filing a notice of appeal and by attempting to argue that there was an automatic stay to all further proceedings before the Supreme Court while the City’s appeal was pending. In December 2020, Justice Madden rejected the City’s arguments, allowing proceedings related to the inquiry to move forward, unless the City won a stay from an appeals court.
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 and the Appellate Division, First Department denied the appeal on July 15, 2021.
Following Justice Madden’s retirement from the bench, Justice Erika M. Edwards was assigned to preside over the case.
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, to which the City has not yet provided full disclosures. The City has also failed to adequately respond to a March 16 letter from petitioners’ lawyers requesting records and documents as a part of discovery in the judicial inquiry.
The judicial inquiry is currently set to begin on October 25 and petitioners filed a brief on July 8 regarding the importance and relevance of the testimony of Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner O’Neill, and other top officials as part of the judicial inquiry. Justice Edwards is expected to issue a ruling the week of July 19, on limited discovery and the date of the next court hearing, and may rule on issues related to the potential witness list.
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.Topics: Eric Garner