By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media
The grand jury in the Eric Garner case heard nine weeks’ of evidence before declining to indict the police officer. Many in the media didn’t wait nine minutes before finding the officer guilty of a crime. This rush to judgment was evident across the political spectrum, in the liberal and conservative media.
With “sit-ins, die-ins, and blockades” making news around the country against “police violence,” it apparently has become tempting for some conservatives to take the side of the black criminal and look stylish. They must figure this is a way of getting accolades from the liberals.
But here are the facts about the grand jury, as disclosed by Stephen J. Rooney, a justice on the Richmond County Supreme Court in New York:
In addition to sitting for nine weeks, it heard from a total 50 witnesses. Twenty-two of the witnesses were civilians, while the remaining witnesses were police officers, emergency medical personnel and doctors.
Sixty exhibits were admitted into evidence, including four videos, records regarding the New York Police Department (NYPD) policies and procedures, medical records pertaining to the treatment of the deceased, photographs of the scene, autopsy photographs and records pertaining to NYPD training.
The grand jury was instructed on relevant principles of law, including Penal Law § 35.30 regarding a police officer’s use of physical force in making an arrest.
The grand jury is one of our most precious institutions of self-governance. It is designed to screen criminal indictments before people are charged.
It’s true that the commentators did not have access to all of this evidence. But they could have taken some time to review the video from a police officer’s point of view, and to review police procedures. Instead, conservatives in the media jumped to conclusions, showing how the narrative of the liberal media was already dominating their thinking.
Interestingly, however, former NBA basketball star Charles Barkley had it right even before the grand jury decision was handed down. He watched the video and told CNN, “…when the cops are trying to arrest you, if you fight back, things go wrong. I don’t think they were trying to kill Mr. Garner. He was a big man and they tried to get him down.”
For some reason, our prominent white conservatives couldn’t see the case as clearly as this black man.
Fox News commentators took sides against the police officer. Andrew Napolitano, the Fox News judicial analyst, said, “This ought to have been an indictment and it ought to have been an indictment for some form of manslaughter. It’s not first degree murder. It’s not second degree murder. But it’s certainly reckless manslaughter.” Napolitano is a judge who should know better. He knows—or should know—that the grand jury looked at all of the evidence, including the fact that the supervising police officer on the scene was black.
One of the most ridiculous critiques of the outcome was offered by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sean Hannity of Fox News. They implied that Garner was being arrested for not paying taxes on cigarettes. He was selling untaxed cigarettes, but that was not the main reason he got into trouble. In fact, shop owners called the police for help in getting him out of the neighborhood.