In he wake of the Eric Garner decision, which follows on the heels of the Michael Brown decision, CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin, a former assistant United States attorney is having trouble reconciling the facts in the Garner case with the news that no indictment will happen.
Officer Daniel Panteleo has expressed his remorse (unlike Darren Wilson) but even the medical examiner in New York ruled Garner’s death a homicide. In light of that fact, what must a Black man do to try to achieve justice?
“I’ve been trying to make sense of this all night, all morning and I just can’t do it. We look at the facts as we know them and I see an unarmed man who was not being aggressive, not being resistant, who was taken down by a chokehold tactic that has been banned by NYPD for 20 years. I see a video with a clear use of excessive force and we see a man die in front of us, all caught on video and no indictment.”
Hostin says that she’s presented hundreds of cases as a prosecutor in front of a grand jury and she says she never went back to her office without an indictment. She says that in 2010, 162,ooo cases went in front of grand juries in the U.S. Attorney’s office and only 11 came back without an indictment.
“When a prosecutor wants to indict a case, a prosecutor gets an indictment,” Hostin says.
Still, Hostin does not believe that prosecutors who work with police day in day out should be the ones prosecuting cases against them.
“There is no way a prosecutor in a particular office should be presenting a case against someone he or she works with. You work too closely with officers, FBI agents to be asked to present cases against them. In every case of a officer-related shooting, arrest, there should be a special prosecutor.”
Hostin is a proponent of body cameras, but says that that’s not enough. She believes polices officers need both bias training and escalation of force training, which can help them better determine the danger a suspect poses to them.
“I also do think there should be a special prosecutor assigned to each and every case that involves an officer-related shooting. There has to be a a movement around the country where we have legislation to make this happen.”
Unfortunately, assigning a special prosecutor is not mandated by law. In many cases, the governor is the one that makes the decision to appoint one. In Missouri, Gov. Jay Nixon refused community concerns and did not appoint one in the Wilson case. Hostin references the Trayvon Martin case, where Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey brought the charges herself, thus getting a trial, if not a conviction, for George Zimmerman.
As prosecutors are sometimes voted in, rather than appointed as Hostin was, it also makes sense that they would be loyal to those who supported them, oftentimes police unions. So there are no easy or quick solutions.
A native New Yorker herself, Hostin says that she’s personally saddened by the Garner decision.
“Aren’t we all disgusted and frustrated? We can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t believe this is happening in these United States. Where are we as a country where you can see a man die on videotape, you can see a man taken down on video and it just doesn’t seem to matter.”
Click the link above to hear the entire interview!