NYPD Officer Not Charged in Eric Garner's Chokehold Death

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on December 03, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A grand jury has decided not to bring criminal charges against the white New York City police officer videotaped applying a chokehold to an unarmed black man who was fatally injured in the struggle.

The man killed in the incident, 43-year-old Eric Garner, was suspected of selling loose cigarettes on the street, reports The New York Times. The decision not to indict the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, comes less than two weeks after the grand jury in Ferguson, Mo. also declined to bring criminal charges against a white officer, Darren Wilson, who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown.

What led to the grand jury's decision not to indict Pantaleo?

Death Ruled a Homicide

The grand jury's decision not to indict came after several months of testimony in the case. In August, the New York City Medical Examiner's office ruled that the death was a homicide, caused by "compression of neck (chokehold), compression of chest, and prone positioning during physical restraint by police."

The type of chokehold used by Pantaleo in the confrontation -- caught on video by a bystander -- seems to go against NYPD rules. These rules officially prohibit the application of force that places "any pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air." In the video of the incident, Garner can be heard repeatedly telling officers, including Pantaleo, attempting to take him to the ground "I can't breathe."

Grand Jury Proceedings Confidential

Unlike a regular criminal trial, grand jury proceedings are kept confidential. Rather than determine the guilt or innocence of a person suspected of a crime, grand juries determine whether enough evidence exists to move forward with a criminal trial. Under New York law, at least 16 grand jurors must be present in order to deliberate and vote on a case, and at least 12 grand jurors must vote for an indictment in order for a person to be charged with a crime.

Officer Pantaleo was the only officer involved in the incident to face indictment. The other officers involved received immunity, reports The New York Times.

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