Win: Court Denies De Blasio Appeal of Judicial Inquiry into Eric Garner’s Killing, Refusal to Discipline All Officers, And Related Cover-Up
Today, the Appellate Division, First Department of the NYS Supreme Court denied the City of New York's appeal of the historic judicial inquiry into Eric Garner’s killing. The judicial inquiry is aimed at investigating the violations and neglect of duties by Mayor de Blasio and other City officials regarding the killing of Mr. Garner, failure to conduct thorough investigations and discipline for misconduct, and the related cover-up.
The City attempted to dismiss the lawsuit last year, but Justice Joan A. Madden issued a decision on September 24, 2020, allowing the judicial inquiry to move forward. Today’s decision from the Appellate Division denies the City’s appeal of Justice Madden’s September 24 decision, stating, “We find that this is the rare case in which allegations of significant violations of duty, coupled with a serious lack of substantial investigation and public explanation, warrant a summary inquiry to bring transparency to a matter of profound public importance: the death of an unarmed civilian during the course of an arrest. Accordingly, we unanimously affirm the order granting the petition.” The full First Department decision can be found here
The judicial inquiry is currently scheduled to begin on October 25th, presided over by Justice Erika M. Edwards of New York State Supreme Court.
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 spokesperson for CPR; and 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; and Rachel Welt, New York Law School Lewis Steel Racial Justice Fellow, who represent Petitioners.
"Today's decision from the court affirms that I, other petitioners, and New Yorkers deserve answers about the neglect and violation of duties of the de Blasio administration related to the murder of my son, refusal to fire other officers responsible for misconduct, and the related cover-up," said Gwen Carr (she/her) mother of Eric Garner. "It's good that the court denied the City's appeal but it's outrageous that I've had to fight for 7 years while the City has protected officers like Lt. Christopher Bannon, who texted it was 'no big deal' when my son was killed and Justin Damico, who lied about the reason for the unconstitutional stop that led to Eric's murder, filed false charges against my son after he knew he was dead, and lied in official reports. No mother should have to fight for 7 years for basic answers and accountability. The level of cover-up in the murder of my son goes all the way to the top and Mayor de Blasio and other top city officials need to be questioned on their failure and refusal to fire officers like Damico, Bannon, Adonis, and others."
"It's outrageous that seven years after one of the most high-profile police killings in the world, Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD are still protecting police misconduct and hiding basic information from Eric Garner's family and New Yorkers," said Loyda Colon (they/them), Executive Director of the Justice Committee, one of eight petitioners in Carr v. de Blasio and spokesperson for CPR. "Today's decision affirms that de Blasio's appeal was baseless and we look forward to seeing the City in court - they should have to answer for why they have violated their core responsibilities as City officials by refusing to fire other officers who lied, helped kill Eric and engaged in other misconduct and the related cover-up."
“We are pleased with the Appellate Division’s decision, which is a complete victory for Ms. Carr and the other Petitioners in this important case,” said co-counsel 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; and Rachel Welt, New York Law School Lewis Steel Racial Justice Fellow. “We hope the decision shows Mayor de Blasio and City officials how critical it is for the inquiry to go forward as scheduled and that they must stop delaying and impeding the inquiry by refusing to produce critical document discovery and witness testimony. We will continue to litigate those discovery issues vigorously as we prepare for the inquiry to begin in October.”
NEXT STEPS: On Monday, July 19 at 10am there will be a court conference in front of Justice Erika M. Edwards of the NYS Supreme Court to discuss the appropriateness of testimony from certain witnesses as part of the judicial inquiry. 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.
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