On Monday, a New York judge agreed to consider releasing the grand jury proceedings that led to the non-indictment of Daniel Pantaleo — the NYPD officer who placed Eric Garner in a chokehold that killed him.

Judge William Garnett said that he would hear arguments later this month on whether to go forth with the unsealing of records.

From the Huffington Post:

The New York Civil Liberties Union, the Legal Aid Society, the office of New York City Public Advocate Letitia James and The New York Post have all petitioned for the records to be released. At a short hearing at the New York State Supreme Court in Staten Island on Monday, Garnett told attorneys for those groups to prepare oral arguments for a hearing on Jan. 29.

Garnett also asked the office of Richmond County District Attorney Daniel Donovan Jr. to prepare arguments against the release of the records. Donovan, who is opposed to the release, came under fire last month after the grand jury, which he convened, declined to indict New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo for Garner’s death.

Grand jury proceedings are usually sealed unless a petitioner can prove that the documents serve a “public interest.” In this case, petitioners believe unsealing the documents would improve relations between the public and law enforcement, as well as add to the debate about the purpose of grand juries.

“What is particularly compelling in this case is that we’re engaged in a public conversation about grand jury proceedings and about police behavior,” Arthur Eisenberg, the NYCLU’s legal director, told reporters after Monday’s hearing. “The disclosure of the grand jury minutes allows that conversation to be more informed and that, we think, under the circumstances of this case, is a compelling interest.”

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU, added that the public debate surrounding Garner’s death is “so legitimately intense because the stakes are so high, the public has a right to know.”

“Sure, there are some matters that should legitimately be kept secret,” Lieberman continued, “but the lion’s share of what went on in that grand jury room needs to be made public. 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.

“If ever there was an application that involved compelling interest and the people’s right to know and lifting the veil of secrecy, this is it,” Lieberman added.

Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, said she would also like to see some “transparency.” In the courtroom on Monday, Carr wore a sweatshirt bearing her son’s last words — “I can’t breathe.”

Garner’s family halted protests in respect for the two officers who were killed in Brooklyn late last year, but plan to take to the streets and call for the release of the grand jury proceedings later this week.

We’ll keep you updated with the latest.

SOURCE: Huffington Post | VIDEO SOURCE: News Inc.

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