It’s July 17, 2014, and the muffled cry of Eric Garner escapes into the air. After being held in a chokehold for nineteen seconds by an excessively suspicious cop, Officer Daniel Pantaleo, Garner dies on the streets of Staten Island. In an attempt to arrest an innocent black man, America lost yet another life to police brutality.
When the original case was brought to trial, Officer Pantaleo claimed that he didn’t mean to put Garner in a chokehold, rather he was using a “seatbelt maneuver”. When looking at videos of the incident, federal prosecutors were unconvinced by Officer Pantaleo’s claim as it was clearly visible that he was putting pressure on Garner’s neck.
As of recent weeks, the case of Eric Garner has been brought back into question. After the federal inquiry into the case dragged on for years, the fate of this case has been unknown under the Trump Administration. Now, career prosecutors are recommending that civil rights charges must be filed against Officer Pantaleo.
According to The New York Times, “[police] abuse cases are among the most difficult courtroom challenges that prosecutors face.” As this case happened in 2014, it symbolized the Black Lives Matter movement as it was gaining headway. With that being said, as the Black Lives Matter movement continues to grow, “prosecutors have come under deeper scrutiny for their decisions about whether to pursue criminal cases.” On both sides of this case, law enforcement officials are aware of the challenges that this case brings. Former attorney general, Eric H Holden Jr. notes that even though evidence “clearly justified indictment”, prosecutors could still lose at trial.
Bringing this case back up has also brought up some weaknesses regarding the case as well. The greatest of which being that the first F.B.I. team sided with Officer Pantaleo and “skewed their investigation accordingly.”
In that summer of 2014, the final words of Eric Garner, “I can’t breathe” became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement. With the all too frequent police brutality cases in the United States, opening up inquiry into this case is essential to fighting injustice. While reasonable doubt is accompanied with the re-opening of the case, justice for Eric Garner greatly outweighs the uncertainty.