A New York judge on Wednesday postponed a hearing on oral arguments for a release of transcripts and other records in the Eric Garner grand jury proceedings. The New York Civil Liberties Union said state Supreme Court Judge William E. Garnett moved the hearing to Feb. 5 because of the major snowstorm that hit the area this week. The civil liberties group, along with the Legal Aid Society and New York City public advocate Letitia James, were scheduled on Thursday to request a public release of the grand jury transcript, as well as evidence presented to the jury panel that decided against indicting a New York Police Department officer in the chokehold death of Garner last July in Staten Island.
The winter storm, which was forecast as a blizzard that would dump more than two feet of snow on the northeastern U.S., led to a closure of the city's courts from Monday afternoon until Wednesday morning, the website SILive.com reported. It also forced the postponement of a felony trial that Garnett is presiding over in another county, according to an order the judge signed rescheduling the Garner records hearing. The director of the NYCLU said it was still important for the public to “know all the facts” of the Garner case.
“The failure to indict the officer responsible for the death of Eric Garner has undermined the public’s trust in our criminal justice system, and New Yorkers from across the state have taken to the streets to demand answers,” NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman said in a statement released Wednesday. She added that the group’s request “allows for the names and personally identifiable information about jurors, witnesses and court employees” as well as Garner’s autopsy photographers and medical records to be redacted or remain sealed.
State law allows for grand jury proceedings to be secret, unless petitioners can demonstrate "a compelling and particularized need for access," SILive.com reported. In December, a grand jury decided not to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in connection with Garner's death on July 17. Pantaleo, who can be seen on video placing Garner in a chokehold while he pleads “I can’t breathe,” had encountered the 43-year-old Garner during a street arrest for selling loose cigarettes.