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Group Digs for Eric Garner Grand Jury Records

MANHATTAN (CN) - The New York Civil Liberties Union is not content with the records publicized about the grand jury that cleared Eric Garner's killer, a Staten Island police officer.

In a decision that sparked widespread protest, a Staten Island grand jury declined on Dec. 3 to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo over his chokehold that killed the unarmed Eric Garner this past July.

A bystander's video showed Garner repeating his final words, "I can't breathe," 11 times before he died, and the city's medical examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide by chokehold and compression to the chest.

With a judge refusing last week to unseal more than a sliver of the record, the reason why the grand jury went against the examiner's conclusion remained a mystery.

Richmond County Supreme Court Justice Stephen Rooney disclosed only that proceedings lasted nine weeks, involving 60 exhibits and testimony from 50 witnesses.

Of those who testified, the grand jury heard from 28 police officers, emergency medical personnel and doctors, and 22 civilians, Rooney added.

The NYCLU sought more meaningful transparency on Friday, in a 19-page application to the same judge.

"The outcome of grand jury proceeding has left many questions as to whether secret grand jury proceedings are instruments of injustice and whether the grand jury system should be abolished," its executive director Donna Lieberman said in a statement. "The Garner grand jury is central to that public discussion. And it is important to that conversation for the public to know how and why the Grand Jury reached the conclusions that it did."

A public hearing for the request is scheduled for Dec. 19, the group's spokeswoman said.

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