Attorney David Chesley's Criminal Defense Blog

Eric Garner and Excessive Force

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Eric Garner and his wife.

Eric Garner and his wife.

By now most people are familiar with the story of Eric Garner’s death. An unarmed black man dies after an encounter with the police where an officer (Daniel Pantaleo) puts Garner on a chokehold. The Garner story has brought up a lot of tension between the police department responsible for Garner’s death and the community.

This particular incident was caught on camera by one of Garner’s friend. The video shows Garner in a confrontation with the local police. The officers in the video are trying to arrest Eric Garner over distributing single cigarettes (referred to as “loosies.”) Although Garner is resisting arrest, he is not being violent and as the officers try to restrain him, you can hear Garner say “Every time you see me you want to arrest me, I’m tired of this, this stops today. I didn’t do nothing, I’m minding my own business officer.” Then you can see Officer Pantaleo come up behind Garner and placing his left arm around the victim’s neck. When Garner falls to the ground, other police officers join in and help Pantaleo put Garner down, you can hear Garner repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe,” as Pantaleo forces his head against the cement.

Eric Garner died shortly after the footage.

The medical examiner who conducted the autopsy of Eric Garner reported that his death was attributed to “Compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by the police.”

The New York Police department has banned the use of choke holds since 1993, a choke hold is defined as a hold that prevents a person from breathing. The NYPD defines a choke hold as “any pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air.”

The video taken of Garner’s arrest, has demonstrated just how broke our system is. In the original report filed by the officers involved in the confrontation there was no mention of a choke hold. If it wasn’t for the video emerging, we would only be left with the police account of the arrest.

Although the grand jury declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo, it opened the eyes of many citizens who were not aware of just how much power is given to a police officer. The amount of force that we saw Pantaleo use in the video should not be allowed, was the grand jury wrong to clear Pantaleo of any crime, or is the New York Police Department’s system broken to allow the use of such excessive force?

Many African Americans throughout the country have mentioned that they already knew the system was broken and that the video of Eric Garner only helps to prove what they already believe. Of course if we are to make a change to the laws that allow the NYPD as well as other police departments across the country to use such extreme tactics, we have to convince those who don’t already agree.

Eric Garner’s death, as well as many other examples of police officers using unnecessary force have recently been caught on video. This is due to the rise of handheld technology, such as smartphones. Recording police officers is completely legal throughout the whole country as long as you do not disturb the police. Do not let police officers intimidate you or tell you otherwise. Videos like this will help expose the holes in our police and justice system.

We at the Law Offices of David S. Chesley believe that no man should die, or face harm because he was suspected of selling loose cigarettes. Sadly we cannot stop this abuse ourselves, but we will do all we can to help those who have been through this type of abuse.

We are glad to be a law firm that represents all type of people, regardless of race or socioeconomic standing. We work with all our clients to reach a goal they are comfortable with and offer flexible payment plans for clients who would otherwise not have access to a professional attorney.

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