What you need to know about Eric Garner and the American Grand Jury


Eric Garner being choked to death.

There’s nothing wrong with the American Grand Jury.

Or New York’s or any other American police force.

There’s also no problem with the whole American judicial or legal system.

You see, it’s always been racist. You just weren’t meant to notice.

The recent American grand jury findings in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases show a system operating exactly as it’s supposed to.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

Albert Einstein

We keep expecting different results. We’re the insane ones.

By the by, if you’re wondering what a “grand jury” even is, it was designed to be a check on prosecutors and law enforcement. To decide whether it’s worth a case even heading to trial.

Instead, they’ve become the exact opposite.

Grand Juries Not Resulting in Indictments:

If you are an ordinary citizen being investigated for a crime by an American grand jury, there is a 99.993% chance you’ll be indicted.

If you’re a police officer, that chance effectively plummets to nil.

The grand jury is a system prosecutors are able to rig in order to get the outcome they desire, effectively leaving it up to them whether or not a case moves to trial.

“There is no question that a grand jury will do precisely what the prosecutor wants, virtually 100% of the time,” said law professor James Cohen.


So, here are the facts in the Eric Garner case:

  • Eric Garner did have a criminal record that included illegally selling cigarettes, driving without a licence, and marijuana possession.
  • He was unarmed.
  • A video of the incident shows Garner resisting arrest, but not violently.
  • The video also shows Garner saying numerous times, “I can’t breathe.”
  • A second video shows Garner laying on the sidewalk, barely breathing and mostly ignored for the six minutes it takes the cops and EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) to get him into an ambulance.
  • Garner had a heart attack and died on the way to hospital. He did suffer from many health problems that likely contributed to his death.
  • Eric Garner has not been accused of committing any crime at the time of his arrest and subsequent death.
  • Garner’s death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner who performed the autopsy.
  • Police officer Daniel Pantaleo applied a forbidden chokehold on Eric Garner.
  • The NYPD outlawed chokeholds more than two decades ago, because they can be deadly if administered inappropriately or carelessly.
  • Between January 2009 and June 2014, the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent agency that investigates police misconduct, received1,128 civilian complaints involving chokehold allegations. Of these, only 10 of these claims were substantiated.

Based on these facts, a grand jury decided that it wasn’t worth having a trial. Nothing to do with the cop being innocent or guilty. They decided there wasn’t even sufficient evidence to commit the case for a criminal trial before a judge and jury.


Here are some other little tidbits:

Right now in the USA, there’s not an accurate count of how many civilians are killed by the police each year. That’s right, nobody knows. Let alone which of those were unjustified.

A grassroots movement found that in 2012, police officers, security guards and self-appointed vigilantes killed at least 313 African-Americans. The real numbers may be far higher, but the statistics suggest that every 28 hours, a black man is killed by a security officer.

The City of New York used to have a “stop-and-frisk” law. In the wake of a death in custody, the NYPD was required to provide information from 1999 to 2009. The resulting decade of data showed that cops disproportionately stopped people of colour, often without cause and with greater use of force.

That law may be gone, but hey, look at what’s still happening.

The mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, said that he and his wife, Chirlane McCray (who is black), had spent years teaching their son, now 17, how to “take special care” around police officers.

Ramsey Orta, 22, who filmed Eric Garner’s death was indicted by the grand jury for weapon possession charges on August 2. He claims the weapon was planted on him, in retaliation for filming the Garner incident on July 17.

Protests continued for a second night in New York and cities around the US on Thursday, December 4. Protestors disrupted traffic, but remained largely peaceful, yet there were still multiple arrests.

Many protesters chanted Eric Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe.”


This article first appeared in The Big Smoke:



Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian

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