Protests erupt after decision in Eric Garner chokehold death
The cellphone video of the last moments of Eric Garner’s life was watched millions of times on the Internet, clearly showing a white police officer holding the unarmed black man in a chokehold, even as he repeatedly gasped, “I can’t breathe.”
But despite that visual evidence, and a medical examiner’s ruling that the chokehold contributed to the death, a Staten Island grand jury decided Wednesday not to bring any charges against the officer involved, prompting protests across the country and sending thousands onto New York’s streets, where they marched, chanted and blocked traffic into the next morning.
While legal experts note it’s impossible to know how the grand jurors reached their conclusion, they say the Garner case, like Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, once again raised concerns about the influence local prosecutors have over the process of charging the police officers they work with on a daily basis.
“The video speaks for itself,” said Jeffrey Fagan, a professor at Columbia Law School. “It appears to show negligence. But if we learned anything from the Brown case, it’s the power of prosecutors to construct and manage a narrative in a way that can shape the outcome.”