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Win: Ruling Paves the Way for Blaz, Top NYPD Brass to Take Stand in Killing of Eric Garner

New York Supreme Court denies the majority of City’s motion to dismiss in Carr v de Blasio

New York, NY (September 24, 2020) – In a major win for transparency and basic civil rights, NY Supreme Court Justice Joan A. Madden ruled today that a public judicial inquiry into potential violations and neglect of duty by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, former NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, and other top police officials arising from the death of Eric Garner can proceed.

In granting the majority of the request for a judicial inquiry, the decision paves the way for City officials – including potentially de Blasio, O’Neill, and others -- to take the stand and answer to claims of neglect and the violations of duty related to the killing of Eric Garner and what Petitioners call the City’s subsequent cover-up. 

Members of Communities United for Police Reform (CPR), the unprecedented campaign uniting New York’s organizing and advocacy organizations to end NYPD violence and imagine a future of safety without relying on the police, brought the litigation, along with Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother; Ellisha Flagg Garner, his sister; Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham. They are represented by Alvin Bragg, Co-Director of New York Law School’s (NYLS) Racial Justice Project and former NYS Chief Deputy Attorney General; civil rights attorney Gideon Oliver, a past President of the New York City Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild; and Melissa Toback Levin, Post-Graduate Fellow with New York Law School's Racial Justice Project.

The decision in New York State Supreme Court is an important page in the long and painful struggle to bring justice for Garner and hold New York City and the NYPD officers who killed him accountable for their actions.

“It has been more than six long years since the NYPD killed my son, and six long years of cover ups and excuses from Mayor de Blasio and his entire administration. Today is an important sign of hope that their misdeeds will not stay in the dark – the world will know what they did to my son and my family,” said Gwen Carr. “We have seen the video. We have heard my son cry ‘I can’t breathe’ as he died. Now we have a chance to finally show that the Mayor has allowed the police department to get away with murder – and the related cover-up.  I hope New Yorkers join me in my ongoing demand for the immediate firing of all the officers who engaged in misconduct related to my son’s murder.”

In her decision, Justice Madden noted that it is commonsense that the de Blasio administration must stand basic questioning: “Certainly, the death of an unarmed man during a police arrest raises questions of both the effectiveness and integrity of city government with regard to which the mayor has responsibilities,” she wrote. 

“We still have to wage a long-term fight, but we will not rest until justice is served in the murder of Mr. Garner and all the officers who engaged in misconduct are fired,” said Loyda Colon of CPR, and co-director of the Justice Committee. “This is one step closer to the day when all of the officers involved in his killing will finally be fired and removed from the force, and when we will do more than paint ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the streets of our city.”

“We are pleased that the Court ordered the City to do what good governance, human dignity, and respect for Black Lives required six-plus years ago: answer fundamental questions concerning the death of Mr. Garner," said Alvin Bragg and Gideon OIiver, co-counsel for petitioners. "For years, the City and the NYPD have made every effort to avoid public scrutiny around the NYPD killing of Eric Garner and their insufficient investigations and other responses. Today’s decision ordering a public judicial inquiry creates a real opportunity for public transparency – including around the Mayor’s and NYPD’s political choices about what to do (and what not do to) in response. That opportunity, in turn, opens the door to potential accountability driven by the people, based on the facts developed in the inquiry, rather than orchestrated by the Mayor and police officials, who have proven themselves time and time again unaccountable in any meaningful way to the families of those killed by police, and broader community demands for justice."

 Justice Madden’s decision can be read here.  


In August 2019, Eric Garner’s mother, sister, and Ramarley Graham’s mother, along with members of Communities United for Police Reform (CPR), announced the filing of a petition to New York Supreme Court demanding a judicial inquiry into the violation and neglect of duty by Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYPD Commissioner O’Neill and others related to the unjust killing of Eric Garner, the cover-up that continues to this day, and the related failure to discipline officers for misconduct in a meaningful or timely manner.

Mayor de Blasio responded to this request for justice by filing a motion to dismiss the petition. New York State Supreme Court Judge Joan A. Madden heard arguments in the city’s motion to dismiss in August 2020. 

Parties to the petition include Gwen Carr, Ellisha Flagg Garner, Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham, Loyda Colon of Justice Committee, Joo-Hyun Kang of Communities United for Police Reform, Monifa Bandele of MomsRising, Kesi Foster of Make the Road, and Mark Winston Griffith of Brooklyn Movement Center. They are represented by Alvin Bragg, Gideon Oliver and Melissa Toback Levin.

On September 24, 2020, Judge Madden issued a ruling denying the majority of the City’s motion to dismiss – allowing the judicial inquiry to proceed related to allegations of:

  • Violations and neglect of duties in connection with the stop and arrest of Mr. Garner and the force used by officers on Mr. Garner;
  • Violations and neglect of duties in connection with filing false official NYPD documents concerning Mr. Garner’s arrest and making false statements in connection with the NYPD’s internal investigation of Mr. Garner’s death;
  • Violations and neglect of duties concerning the unlawful leaking of Mr. Garner’s alleged arrest history and alleged medical history; and
  • Violations and neglect of duties in connection with alleged lack of medical care provided to Mr. Garner by police officers.

Click here to view the August 2019 petition to New York Supreme Court.

Click here to read Justice Madden’s September 24, 2020 decision.


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