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DA: Grand Jury to Assess Evidence in Eric Garner Case

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The Staten Island district attorney says a special grand jury is being convened to assess evidence regarding circumstances of Eric Garner's death.

DA Dan Donovan says the court granted his application for a grand jury on Monday.

Garner died in police custody last month in Tompkinsville after being placed in a chokehold for illegally selling loose cigarettes.

The medical examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide.

No charges have been filed against the NYPD officer who is accused of putting Garner in a chokehold.

People in the neighborhood where it happened were pleased with the news of a grand jury being convened.

"You want to see some justice done. They're getting away with murder," said one person in the neighborhood.

"A regular person would have been in handcuffs, jail, but unless somebody shoot a cop. So why is there double standards?" said another.

The medical examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide.

Police union president Patrick Lynch said the grand jury is a sign that the process is moving forward.

"Any time there's a death in custody, 99 percent of the time, it goes to a grand jury. Our concern is that it's a fair grand jury, that the evidence is presented fairly, the video is watched in real time, and the law is explained correctly," Lynch said.

To Garner's family, it's not good enough. They're meeting with federal prosecutors in Brooklyn Thursday, asking them to take over the case.

"The fact that the district attorney for Staten Island has convened a grand jury does not make any difference in that regard. The family still wants and will once again request federal intervention," said Sanford Rubenstein, the Garner family's attorney.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Al Sharpton will lead a march through Staten Island in honor of Garner this Saturday.

The family of Michael Brown, the unarmed Missouri teenager who was shot and killed by police, will also attend the march.

"What happened to Eric happened with Staten Island. A white policeman killing a black unarmed man, that happened here on Staten Island," said Ed Josey, president of the Staten Island branch of the NAACP. "The same thing happened in Ferguson, Missouri. The parameters might vary somewhat, but in basic, that's what happened."

Donovan said he hopes to start presenting evidence to the grand jury sometime next month.

Full DA Statement

"Based upon the investigation that my office has conducted to date regarding the July 17, 2014, death of Eric Garner, and after a careful review of the recent findings of the Medical Examiner regarding the cause and manner of Mr. Garner's death, I have determined that it is appropriate to present evidence regarding the circumstances of his death to a Richmond County Grand Jury. Yesterday, the Court granted my application for the impaneling of an additional Grand Jury and I intend to utilize that Grand Jury sometime next month to begin presenting evidence on this matter.

Mindful of the solemn oath to enforce the law that I took when I was first sworn into office as District Attorney in January of 2004, and with a full appreciation that no person is above the law, nor beneath its protection, I assure the public that I am committed to conducting a fair, thorough, and responsible investigation into Mr. Garner's death, and that I will go wherever the evidence takes me, without fear or favor.

Notwithstanding the keen public interest in this matter, to maintain the integrity of this investigation, and in furtherance of my obligations under Penal Law §215.70 to maintain the secrecy of Grand Jury proceedings, I will make no comment now, or during the period of time that the Grand Jury is convened, regarding the days that the Grand Jury will be sitting; who may be called as a witness before the Grand Jury; what any witness has or will testify about before the Grand Jury; when the Grand Jury will conclude its investigation; what criminal charges will be considered by the Grand Jury, or against whom the Grand Jury might consider any such criminal charges."

- District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan, Jr.

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