In the Bronx, Dismissal of Charges Against Alleged Killer Officer Nothing New

On Feb. 2, 2013, NYPD narcotics officer, Richard Haste, broke into the family home of Ramarley Graham and shot and killed the unarmed 18-year-old in his bathroom. A Bronx grand jury indicted Haste on two counts of manslaughter, but on Wed. May 15, 2013, Judge Steven Barrett dismissed the indictment on a technicality.  Outrage by this miscarriage of justice,  this past weekend Graham’s family called on all New Yorkers to rally in front of their  home to demand justice. The weekend prior to the indictment being tossed, Graham’s parents participated in a protest, Mothers Cry for Justice, held in Downtown New York City by NYPD headquarters and City Hall. Here is what Graham’s father said there.

The Justice Committee, a grassroots organization that has been working with families of NYC police brutality and racial violence victims, including the Graham family in a statement said:

“Although an outrage, Judge Steven L. Barrett’s decision to drop the manslaughter charges against Haste is not surprising. The District Attorney’s Office’s sloppy and inadequate handling of the case is also a story with which families who have lost loved ones to the NYPD are far too familiar. It is important for New Yorkers to understand that there is an inherent conflict of interest when the DA’s office prosecutes NYPD officers. This conflict is rooted in their daily reliance on one another. They are on the same side and part of the same system.”

This is why the JC and other organizations and individuals have demanded for some time a special Independent Prosecutor for all cases of police killing.

This isn’t the first time that an indictment against a police officer in the Bronx has been thrown out on a technicality, highlighting the close nature of the DA’s office and the NYPD. In March 1995, a Bronx grand jury indicted Francis X. Livoti on charges of manslaughter in the second degree. for the chokehold that killed Anthony Baez. Homicide charges were thrown out after an indictment with an incorrect charge was noted. In December 1995, Livoti was reindicted for criminally negligent homicide. But what happened between March and December wasn’t the Bronx District Attorney’s Office of Robert Johnson checking itself and making sure justice was served for the community. It was through the efforts of community activists including the mother of slain 29 year old Baez and other mothers whose sons were killed by police that a second indictment was obtained.

In October of 1995, Iris Baez, who usually walked around with her Bible and opened and closed vigils in memory of her son with prayers, risked arrest by sitting in Robert Johnson’s office, demanding he would reindict Livoti, who had a series of complaints against filed against him via the Civilian Complaint Review Board. Baez was joined by Margarita Rosario, mother and aunt of Bronx police brutality victims, Anthony Rosario and Hilton Vega, who were shot in the back while face down on the floor  by police officers, Patrick Brosnan And James Crowe,  who had once served as then Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s personal bodyguards.

Officers refused to arrest Baez and Rosario that day but activists like to credit their actions as applying critical pressure to get a second indictment of Livoti who ended up going to jail for violating the civil rights of Anthony Baez.

It’s not clear what the Graham family will do next. They have options including asking for federal intervention, seeking civil rights violations charges, and or a civil lawsuit against Officer Haste and the New York Police Department. They may also attempt to pressure and shame Robert Johnson’s office into getting another indictment. But none of those options will bring back the son they lost nor will they change the culture of policing in New York City and the entire United States that looks at people of color as perpetually criminal and deserving of less than human respect.

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