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NYCLU Seeks Release Of Grand Jury Evidence In Eric Garner Case

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The New York Civil Liberties Union is expected to be in court this week hoping to get more information on how the Eric Garner grand jury made its decision not to indict anyone in connection with his death.

The NYCLU wants the evidence made public in the grand jury's decision to not indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo and plans to fight for it in court on Friday.

"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," NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement last week. "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."

NYCLU Seeks Release Of Grand Jury Evidence In Eric Garner Case

But the judge weighing whether to make the grand jury proceedings public has pulled himself off the case.

Judge Stephen Rooney recused himself from the case, calling it a conflict of interest. Sources told CBS2 his wife works for the same hospital as the EMTs who responded to the Garner incident on Staten Island in July.

"Why did he not recuse himself earlier?" said city Public Advocate Letitia James.

The judge indicated he's more concerned about the appearance of a conflict than his judgment being clouded, WCBS 880's Alex Silverman reported.

NYCLU leaders will be in court Friday hoping to get another judge assigned to the case, CBS2's Ilana Gold reported.

Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, died after he had been stopped by police for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

Pantaleo and other NYPD officers stopped Garner on the street in Tompkinsville. A video shot by an onlooker and widely watched on the Internet showed Garner telling the officers to leave him alone and refusing to be handcuffed.

Pantaleo responded by wrapping his arm around Garner's neck in an apparent chokehold, which is banned under NYPD policy. The heavyset Garner, who had asthma, is heard gasping, "I can't breathe." He later was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The New York City Medical Examiner's office ruled Garner's death a homicide, caused by the officer's apparent chokehold as well as chest and neck compressions and prone positioning "during physical restraint by police."

Pataleo's lawyer and police union officials have argued that the officer used an authorized takedown move, not a chokehold, against a man who was resisting arrest. They also said Garner's poor health was the main cause of his death.

Earlier this month, the grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo in the incident, prompting protests around the city and the country. But he is still subject to an ongoing probe by NYPD Internal Affairs and a federal investigation.

Meanwhile, there's growing public backlash against some protesters who demonstrated following the grand jury's decision.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday found 57 percent of New York City voters say protesters should not be allowed to block traffic.

EXTRA: Click Here For The Full Poll

A 29-year-old Baruch College professor faces criminal charges after police said he tried to throw a trash can over a railing at a Brooklyn Bridge protest against the Garner grand jury decision.

Now, a new Facebook page calling for him to be fired has already garnered almost 4,000 likes.

"Standing up for something is one thing, but what they're accusing him of, which is like basically borderline anarchy, it is not excusable," Baruch student Eli Zathrowitz said.

"I'm a supporter of freedom of speech, but when violence is used, that's never the right thing to do," Baruch student Christos Bakalexis said.

The NYPD is also still looking for a group of protestors allegedly caught on camera attacking officers. Police are now offering a $12,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of those remaining suspects.

More than 70 percent of the poll's respondents approved of the NYPD's handling of the demonstrations.

The poll also found that two-thirds of New York City voters disagree with the grand jury's decision not to indict Pantaleo in connection with Garner's death.

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