By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media
The grand jury in the Eric Garner case heard nine weeks’ of evidence before declining to indict the police officer. Many in the media didn’t wait nine minutes before finding the officer guilty of a crime. This rush to judgment was evident across the political spectrum, in the liberal and conservative media.
With “sit-ins, die-ins, and blockades” making news around the country against “police violence,” it apparently has become tempting for some conservatives to take the side of the black criminal and look stylish. They must figure this is a way of getting accolades from the liberals.
But here are the facts about the grand jury, as disclosed by Stephen J. Rooney, a justice on the Richmond County Supreme Court in New York:
- In addition to sitting for nine weeks, it heard from a total 50 witnesses. Twenty-two of the witnesses were civilians, while the remaining witnesses were police officers, emergency medical personnel and doctors.
- Sixty exhibits were admitted into evidence, including four videos, records regarding the New York Police Department (NYPD) policies and procedures, medical records pertaining to the treatment of the deceased, photographs of the scene, autopsy photographs and records pertaining to NYPD training.
- The grand jury was instructed on relevant principles of law, including Penal Law § 35.30 regarding a police officer’s use of physical force in making an arrest.
The grand jury is one of our most precious institutions of self-governance. It is designed to screen criminal indictments before people are charged.
It’s true that the commentators did not have access to all of this evidence. But they could have taken some time to review the video from a police officer’s point of view, and to review police procedures. Instead, conservatives in the media jumped to conclusions, showing how the narrative of the liberal media was already dominating their thinking.
Interestingly, however, former NBA basketball star Charles Barkley had it right even before the grand jury decision was handed down. He watched the video and told CNN, “…when the cops are trying to arrest you, if you fight back, things go wrong. I don’t think they were trying to kill Mr. Garner. He was a big man and they tried to get him down.”
For some reason, our prominent white conservatives couldn’t see the case as clearly as this black man.
Fox News commentators took sides against the police officer. Andrew Napolitano, the Fox News judicial analyst, said, “This ought to have been an indictment and it ought to have been an indictment for some form of manslaughter. It’s not first degree murder. It’s not second degree murder. But it’s certainly reckless manslaughter.” Napolitano is a judge who should know better. He knows—or should know—that the grand jury looked at all of the evidence, including the fact that the supervising police officer on the scene was black.
One of the most ridiculous critiques of the outcome was offered by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sean Hannity of Fox News. They implied that Garner was being arrested for not paying taxes on cigarettes. He was selling untaxed cigarettes, but that was not the main reason he got into trouble. In fact, shop owners called the police for help in getting him out of the neighborhood. He had been committing crimes since the age of 16.
Selling untaxed cigarettes sounds like a petty crime. But anyone who reviews the evidence knows that crime rates have been going down in New York City precisely because the police have been enforcing the law at all levels, from petty crimes on up to murder. The police are not supposed to decide which laws to enforce; they are supposed to enforce the law, period.
We are accustomed to an anti-police bias from the liberals. But Glenn Beck said, “How this cop did not go to jail and was not held responsible is beyond me.” Perhaps he should have taken some time to look at the video more closely. On first glance, it does look shocking. But it’s not true that the “chokehold” was in fact a “chokehold.” Officer Daniel Pantaleo used a headlock, which is a textbook takedown maneuver. Garner had a series of health problems contributing to the unfortunate outcome. Second, even the video shows Garner resisting arrest, saying “It stops today.” Third, it is clear the officer asked for back-up and didn’t immediately take down the suspect. Garner was given every opportunity to be arrested and taken into custody peacefully.
Radio host Michael Savage was the worst offender, in terms of taking sides against the police. He called the police officers “jackals” and “cowards,” and falsely called Garner’s death “the chokehold murder of an innocent black man.” On his radio show on Thursday, he said, “Tell me what happened when the guy is saying he can’t breathe? Did they pull back? Did the jackals pull back? Did the big cop Daniel Pantaleo with the big muscular tattooed arms…release his chokehold?”
Again, it wasn’t a chokehold. What’s more, criminals always complain about police brutality, alleging broken arms or legs, or not being able to breathe, when they are resisting arrest. He clearly could breathe since he was griping about his treatment. A real chokehold would have prevented him from saying anything.
Charles Krauthammer said, “From looking at the video, the grand jury’s decision here is totally incomprehensible. It looks as if at least they might have indicted him on something like involuntary manslaughter at the very least.” But the video has to be interpreted from the point of view of police procedures and the law. That’s what the grand jury did.
Megyn Kelly of Fox News, who is a lawyer, said about the case, “It was a slap on the wrist kind of crime, for which he effectively received the death penalty…” The term “death penalty” implies a deliberate effort to take his life.
Don’t these conservative commentators realize they are inflaming an already tense situation and making things worse? They are accusing the police of serious crimes and putting the lives of officers in danger as a result.
Whatever happened to the Fox News Channel that was supposed to be a counter to the liberal diatribes we usually get from MSNBC?
Those of us who have been fighting liberal media bias for decades are extremely disappointed with the conduct of the conservative media we have worked so many years to support. This alternative source of news and information is supposed to help us make informed decisions about issues of national and international importance. Instead, we are being treated to conservative back-up for liberal opinions designed to make police into villains and bad guys.
This is just what President Obama and the “progressives” are counting on, as they proceed to put local police under federal jurisdiction, monitoring, and control. Six years after Obama was first elected, it is apparent that our leading light conservative commentators still don’t understand how the “progressive” agenda is moving forward—now with their support.