NY1 Report - Calls for Special Prosecutor from Public Advocate and Legal Aid Society Chief Attorney
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 06, 2014

Some are saying city district attorneys are not capable of prosecuting police cases in light of the no indictment vote in Eric Garner's death and other high-profile cases. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.

As protests grow, so does the chorus of people calling for district attorneys to give up handling police cases.

"I think it's important that the governor of the state of New York appoint a special prosecutor in the case of any death as a result of NYPD and/or serious injury," said Public Advocate Letitia James.

When police tried to arrest Eric Garner, it wasn't his first run-in with police over allegedly selling cigarettes illegally. The Legal Aid Society, which represented him in those cases, says Garner argued the charges were bogus. Legal Aid says prosecutors work too closely with police to fairly investigate them.

"The recent failure to indict police officers in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, we believe that special prosecutors should be appointed to handle police involved deaths of civilians," Seymour James Jr., attorney-in-chief of the Legal Aid Society, said in a statement.

Governor Andrew Cuomo isn't going that far yet, but does say there should be a review of the justice system because too many perceive it as unjust.

"And it's been Eric Garner. It's Ferguson. It was Amadou Diallo here in New York, It was the Bell case here in New York. It was Trayvon Martin. These long series of cases where people have seen the same type of repeat problem," Cuomo said on NBC's "Today."

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson is fuming at the notion of being overstepped.

"I don't believe that the local prosecutors should have these cases taken away from us and given to a special prosecutor," Thompson said. "I think that people are upset, and I understand that they're upset, but I think that I should be able to fairly and thoroughly investigate these matters on behalf of the people of Brooklyn. That's what I was elected to do."

In terms of the decision on Staten Island not to indict officers, the Legal Aid Society has already filed court papers to get all of the grand jury information. The public advocate is expected to do the same next week.

"Unseal the transcripts so all of us will know what the witnesses said, what exhibits were demonstrated, and so that the Garner family will have some sense of what happened behind closed doors," James said.