Two days after they commemorated the death of Eric Garner, who died seven years ago, his family members were back in court to press for witnesses and documents in a historic judicial inquiry into his death.
The family, including Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, is still hoping to hold the city accountable in his death. This latest legal battle is part of an uncommon case, in which an appellate court decided last week to allow the family to question “violations and neglect of duty” by the NYPD and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration in connection with Garner’s death. On Monday, the family was in court to ask for specific witnesses and documents.
At the morning’s virtual hearing, Judge Erika Edwards signaled that first responders who were present when the 43-year-old Garner died on Staten Island in 2014 should expect to testify in the unusual judicial inquiry about his chokehold death. A video taken after Garner was choked showed that first responders did not administer aid to him while he was on the ground.
The judge also indicated she will likely grant the family’s request for more documents.
The city argued that it has already produced “over 40,000 records,” to the family and its representatives. But representatives for Garner’s family argued to the court that, while they have received summaries of the investigations from the city, they are still missing vital answers about what happened, including interviews and radio recordings that might provide some closure.
Edwards said her decision would be made by Friday, July 23rd, but signaled that the court would likely grant Garner’s representatives limited discovery to the city’s files.
It remains unclear whether high-profile city officials who were not on the scene, like Mayor Bill de Blasio and former police commissioner James O’Neill will be brought in to testify.
Carr believes that the mayor’s inclusion as a witness is key to transparency from the city.
“[Mayor] de Blasio was one of the first people to speak out after my son’s death and he’s been involved ever since,” Carr said to Gothamist/WNYC during a press conference. “We need more accountability and this can be provided by the top official, who is de Blasio.”
The city’s stance is that while senior city officials, like the mayor, may have spoken about the investigation into Garner’s killing, they have not been involved in the day-to-day process. Because of that, calling high-ranking city officials to the stand would be inappropriate and “would not be for transparency, but for spectacle,” the city argued.
“We’re not trying to make a circus out of this,” Carr said to Gothamist/WNYC. “The circus was that day my son was murdered and they thought it was okay.”
The judicial inquiry is set to begin on October 25.
Joseph Gedeon reported this story for the Gothamist/WNYC’s Race & Justice Unit. If you have a tip, some data, or a story idea, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out on Twitter @JGedeon1.