Federal prosecutors have convened a grand jury to hear evidence in the 2014 death of Eric Garner, the New York Daily News and New York Times are reporting. The U.S. Department of Justice began investigating Garner’s death after a New York grand jury declined to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who placed him in the chokehold that killed him.
The grand jury will determine whether an indictment can be brought against Pantaleo for violating Garner’s civil rights. According to the reports, two police officers who were present on the scene—“on the periphery,” the News’ source said—were the first to testify yesterday. Special Litigation Counsel Forrest Christian, “a veteran prosecutor in the Justice Department’s civil rights division,” according to the Times, will lead the prosecution.
Morris Fodeman, a former federal attorney, told the News that the grand jury would attempt to determine whether Pantaleo willfully violated Garner’s constitutional right to be protected from unreasonable search and seizures.
The chokehold that Pantaleo can be seen using in the now-infamous video of Garner’s death is banned under the NYPD rules for officers. According to commissioner Bill Bratton, an internal affairs investigation into the incident is complete, but the results will not be released until after the federal investigation is over.