A Staten Island, New York, judge ruled Thursday against releasing the evidence presented during grand jury hearings for the case of Eric Garner, who was held in a choke hold and killed by a NYPD officer in Staten Island last July.
Those who had called for transparency of the court documents include the Legal Aid Society, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the New York Post and New York City's public advocate Letitia James.
Justice William E. Garnett stated that the parties requesting the documents did not present a strong enough case. “What would they use the minutes for? The only answer which the court heard was the possibility of effecting legislative change. That proffered need is purely speculative and does not satisfy the requirements of the law,” Garnett wrote in his decision, according to the New York Times.
Grand jury documents are supposed to be kept sealed according to New York law.
Public Advocate James and the ACLU are expected to file an appeal against the ruling.
Jonathan Moore, a lawyer representing Garner's family, said he thought the ruling was "unfortunate," the Times reports. He added, “The judge has essentially sanctioned the use of a secret trial for a very public matter. If this was a normal grand jury process, they would have had an indictment in five minutes.”
The grand jury's decision not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in December sparked protests nationally.
Garner, 43, was being stopped by the police for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. Garner was later taken to the ground and died after shouting, “I can’t breathe!” several times on a video recording that was spread around the Internet. His death was later ruled a homicide.
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(Photo: Family photo via National Action Network/AP Photo)
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