Year After Eric Garner Death, Few Reforms In NY Criminal Justice


A year after the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, in an encounter with a white police officer in New York City, advocates for changing the criminal-justice system say their calls haven't sparked the overhaul they had hoped for, reports the Wall Street Journal. “It hasn't done what we've wanted it to do, but we're still in this fight,” said Gwen Carr, Garner's mother. This month, Carr and the thousands of protesters who have joined her at marches and rallies scored what many said was their biggest victory. Through a one-year executive order, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed the state attorney general to be a special prosecutor for cases in which a police officer kills a civilian. A district attorney typically would serve as the prosecutor. The appointment has had backlash from some district attorneys, who said it unfairly undermines work they are elected to do.

Other policy proposals in response to Garner's death faced resistance in the GOP-led state Senate. None passed the state legislature. Decrying the grand jury status quo as “a medieval institution,” New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman proposed what experts said would be a first-of-its-kind strategy: placing a judge in grand-jury proceedings. Lippman also proposed making public portions of some grand-jury proceedings. Ed Cox, chairman of New York's Republican party, said the state Senate GOP, which didn't vote on Lippman's proposal, was wary of passing laws hastily. “The grand-jury process works, and it has worked for years,” Cox said. “The important thing is not the politics of the moment, but getting the law right for the long haul. One video showing one view makes a bad case, and it would make a bad law just to react to that.”

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