Judge Orders NYPD to Release Documents to Ramarley Graham’s Family That May Shed New Light on His Killing
New York, NY – New York Supreme Court Justice Manuel J. Mendez has ordered the NYPD to release a trove of documents to Ramarley Graham’s family that may shed new light on Mr. Graham’s 2012 killing by then-NYPD Officer Richard Haste and the NYPD investigation into the killing. The full ruling is here: http://bit.ly/
Judge Mendez’s ruling is a major win for Graham’s family and for Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) and the Justice Committee (JC), who have been pushing for access to the records for years. Mr. Graham’s parents, CPR, and JC jointly filed a sweeping Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”) request in September of 2016 seeking the records from the NYPD.
After the NYPD disclosed only a handful and otherwise denied the request in March of 2017, they filed a lawsuit to force the NYPD to release the rest of the files. The Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council filed amicus curiae papers supporting the lawsuit. The NYPD and the City’s Office of the Corporation Counsel have fought against releasing the documents at every step of the way.
In December of 2017, Justice Mendez issued an interim order in the case directing the NYPD to disclose more than 30 categories of records directly to the family, CPR, and JC, and more than 30 additional categories of records to the Court for in camera review. In response to the December 2017 Order, in March of 2018 the NYPD turned over a thousand pages of documents, 327 digital photographs (including Crime Scene Unit photographs and photographs of Mr. Graham’s body), 33 DVD’s of video footage and news clips, and several audio recordings. Also around that time, the NYPD produced over 600 records to the Court for in camera review.
In a 24-page final Decision, Order, and Judgment dated July 31, 2018, Judge Mendez rejected most of the NYPD’s arguments for keeping those records secret, and ordered the NYPD to produce dozens of categories of records with redactions. Among the records to be produced are recordings and summaries of police and civilian witness statements and the entire transcript of Haste’s administrative trial.
Judge Mendez held that the NYPD had caused “unreasonable delay” and that “[t]here is a public interest in Ramarley Graham's family obtaining the records to obtain clarity and closure concerning the events of February 2, 2012.” He also assessed attorney’s fees against the NYPD. Unless the NYPD appeals the ruling, they must turn over the remaining records in early September.
Haste shot and killed Ramarley Graham in the bathroom of his apartment in front of his grandmother and six-year-old brother on February 2, 2012. Last year, Haste finally quit the police force shortly after learning of a recommendation for his firing, following his administrative trial. Also in 2017, two other officers faced consequences around Ramarley’s killing: Additionally, Sergeant Scott Morris resigned and officer John McLoughlin was placed on a one-year "dismissal probation" while they faced departmental charges for their roles in Graham’s death.
“The NYPD should have released these files years ago. 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. It’s been a painful journey to try to get some measure of accountability for my son Ramarley, but I am glad Judge Mendez has ruled in my favor and that he saw through the NYPD's lies. I will continue to fight for my son and I urge the public and all families who have lost loved ones to police violence to exhaust all options to fight for the truth and to fight for justice for their loved ones. Families whose loved ones have been killed by the NYPD shouldn't be forced to fight so hard for some accountability or transparency, but that's the reality we face," said Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham.
“Judge Mendez’s ruling is a victory for police transparency and accountability, and for Ramarley Graham’s family. The de Blasio administration and the NYPD have repeatedly tried to fight the release of these documents to hide them from public view with lies and alarming misinformation - actions to thwart transparency, which are unfortunately not uncommon when it comes to police killings of New Yorkers. We applaud Judge Mendez for ruling that the NYPD must release these documents and reveal more vital information about the department's actions and events surrounding the killing Ramarley Graham,” said Monifa Bandele, MomsRising Senior Vice President and spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform.
"We are relieved that Ramarley's family will finally have access to these documents, but this process has taken far too long," said Loyda Colon, Co-Director of the Justice Committee. "The over six-year ordeal the NYPD and de Blasio administration put Ramarley's family through in order to get some level of transparency is a grave injustice heaped upon the injustice of losing Ramarley to the NYPD along with the wide range of police misconduct and abuse they suffered related to his death. It's important to understand that the level of transparency we have achieved in this case could not have happened without the leadership of Ramarley's mother, Constance Malcolm, and six-plus years of citywide organizing."
“In the last over two years, the NYPD and City lawyers made a litany of excuses for withholding thousands of pages of records about Mr. Graham’s killing and related NYPD investigations,” said their lawyer, Gideon Orion Oliver. "For example, they claimed the documents were 'personnel records' under NY Civil Rights Law 50-a and that releasing them would threaten officers because Mr. Graham’s family and advocates wanted to use them to call for police accountability. The Court has rejected those arguments as to a broad swath of the responsive records, ruling that the NYPD lacked legal justification for withholding them, that the NYPD can no longer keep them secret, that doing so was unreasonable in the first place, and assessing attorney’s fees against the City. This decision should deter the NYPD from using blanket denials and from similarly overboard invocations of 50-a and FOIL exceptions in the future.
“New York Supreme Court Judge Manuel Mendez’s ruling is a long overdue step towards delivering justice to the family of Ramarley Graham,” said New York City Council Member and Progressive Caucus Member Antonio Reynoso. “Too many members of our communities have lost their lives to excessive force at the hands of NYPD officers. The Department, along with the de Blasio administration, has failed to hold officers accountable for these tragic and preventable incidents of violence. I hope that Judge Mendez’s ruling marks a turn towards greater accountability and transparency within our justice system for all of the families who have lost their loved ones to such unjust violence.”
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 policing practices based on cooperation and respect– not discriminatory targeting and harassment.
CPR brings 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 unfairly targeted the most by the NYPD. CPR is fighting for reforms that will promote community safety while ensuring that the NYPD protects and serves all New Yorkers.Topics: Ramarley Graham