December 16, 2014
By Neal Tepel
New York, NY – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has recommended to Governor Cuomo that his office review cases involving unarmed civilians killed by law enforcement officers. In a letter sent to Governor Cuomo, Attorney General Schneiderman formally requested that the Governor immediately issue an interim executive order now directing the Office of the Attorney General to investigate and, if necessary, prosecute cases involving unarmed civilians killed by police officers.
While several proposals for reforming the criminal justice system are expected to be considered when the State Legislature reconvenes, the Attorney General noted the urgent need for immediate action to restore public trust in the outcome of cases involving unarmed civilians killed by law enforcement officers by ensuring these cases receive a thorough, impartial and independent review. The proposed order would be drafted to expire when the Legislature acts to permanently address this problem.
“The horrible events surrounding the death of Eric Garner have revealed a deep crisis of confidence in some of the fundamental elements of our criminal justice system,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Nothing could be more critical for both the public and the police officers who work tirelessly to keep our communities safe than acting immediately to restore trust and confidence in the independence of reviews in any case involving an unarmed civilian killed by a law enforcement officer. While several worthy legislative reforms have been proposed, the Governor has the power to act today to solve this problem. I strongly encourage him to take action now.”
In his letter to the Governor, Attorney General Schneiderman wrote, "The question in these difficult cases is not whether a local prosecutor, including one with understandably close ties to his or her fellow local law enforcement officers, is capable of setting aside any personal biases in deciding whether, or how vigorously, to pursue the case. As the State’s chief law enforcement officer, I know that I and the overwhelming majority of my fellow prosecutors are not only capable of doing so, but are conscientious about our ethical duty to see that justice is done in every case. Rather, the question is whether there is public confidence that justice has been served, especially in cases where homicide or other serious charges against the accused officer are not pursued or are dismissed prior to a trial by jury."