Law

Eric Garner case: A grievous wrong not to indict

Reaction from Fox News senior legal analyst

 

A grand jury chose not to indict a New York City police officer Wednesday for causing the death of New York City resident Eric Garner. There was ample evidence to indict; and the grand jury made a grievous error by not doing so. I say this not having seen the evidence before the grand jury, not having seen the medical reports, and not having heard what the District Attorney said to the grand jury. 

But I have seen a videotape of the incident and it reveals probable cause to show that the police officer used grossly excessive force on a non-violent, non-threatening person. It also reveals he cried and screamed for help because by compacting his chest, his breathing was impaired. The police did nothing to save his live; yet they accelerated his death needlessly. On the basis of the tape alone, I have a clean conscience making such an assertion that an indictment was warranted. The job of a properly instructed grand jury is not to assess guilt or innocence, not to decide who was right or wrong, but solely to determine if there is enough evidence to charge a defendant in a given case.

Garner was selling cigarettes to homeless folks for a dollar. That is the moral equivalent of jay-walking. He should have been sent to another street corner with a warning, rather than arrested for this harmless behavior. We don’t live in a society in which every conceivable criminal charge should be brought against every conceivable defendant. There have been such societies, and we have fought wars against them. Have we won those wars only to become like the governments that we eradicated?

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel.