The grand jury’s vote to exonerate the police officer whose chokehold killed Eric Garner on Staten Island has glaring earmarks of a gross miscarriage of justice.
The ruling is painfully far harder to understand than the Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict for the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson.
To a large degree, the evidence against Officer Daniel Pantaleo was widely scrutinized by the public in the form of a on-scene video posted to the Internet by the Daily News. The image of Pantaleo wrestling Garner to the ground with his arm around Garner’s neck was horrifying.
Even granting that a cop has wide latitude in using force to make an arrest, Pantaleo’s sudden aggressiveness was unnecessary. The fact that it entailed a chokehold only reinforced the excessive quality of his actions.
After the medical examiner found that a chokehold and chest compression led to Garner’s death, the connection between cause and effect seemed enough to many people not only to indict but to convict Pantaleo.
Deep, intense skepticism about the grand jury’s ruling is fully warranted — while recognizing that no one other than the panel and Staten Island prosecutors have reviewed all the evidence and matched the facts against the law.
Bob McManus column:
BLAME ONLY THE MAN WHO TRAGICALLY DECIDED TO RESIST
Eric Garner and Michael Brown had much in common, not the least of which was this: On the last day of their lives, they made bad decisions. Especially bad decisions.
Each broke the law — petty offenses, to be sure, but sufficient to attract the attention of the police.
And then — tragically, stupidly, fatally, inexplicably — each fought the law.
The law won, of course, as it almost always does.
This was underscored yet again Wednesday when a Staten Island grand jury chose not to indict any of the arresting officers in the death in police custody of Garner last July.
Just as a grand jury last week declined to indict the police officer who shot a violently resisting Michael Brown to death in Ferguson, Mo., in August.
Demagoguery rises to an art form in such cases — because, again, the police generally win. (Though not always, as a moment’s reflection before the Police Memorial in lower Manhattan will underscore.) And because those who advocate for cop-fighters are so often such accomplished beguilers.
They cast these tragedies as, if not outright murder, then invincible evidence of an enduringly racist society.
No such thing, as a matter of fact. Virtually always, these cases represent sad, low-impact collisions of cops and criminals — routine in every respect except for an outlier conclusion.
The Garner case is textbook.