More than one month after a grand jury declined to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the officer responsible for the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island judge has agreed to hear arguments on whether the jury’s records should be released. Typically, grand jury documents are kept sealed.
The New York Times reports that the Legal Aid Society, New York’s public advocate Letitia James, the New York Post and the New York Civil Liberties Union have come forward and requested that the transcripts be released to the public to ensure fair and unbiased testimony.
“Sure, there are some matters that should legitimately be kept secret, but the lion’s share of what went on in that grand jury room needs to be made public,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU. “What is our future policy regarding grand juries? Should they exist? Should they function in secret, or should they be open? That’s what this case is about.”
However, Staten Island district attorney Daniel M. Donovan, Jr. is vehemently against the release, saying in papers filed on Friday that Pantaleo should not be subjected to “adverse consequences merely on the basis of an accusation.”
Yesterday, the judge agreed to a hearing on the case, scheduled for January 29.
Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, who was present at the hearing, is demanding an explanation for the lack of justice, which she hopes grand jury documents can answer.
“I would like transparency,” she told reporters, “to see what actually happened.”