Staten Island grand jury begins hearing evidence in Eric Garner case

STATEN ISLAND (WABC) -- A grand jury has begun deciding whether there should be criminal charges in the case of an unarmed man who died while being arrested by New York City police.

Police union officials said the grand jury began hearing evidence on Monday in the death of Eric Garner.

The proceedings come five weeks after the medical examiner found that a banned chokehold used by Officer Daniel Pantaleo contributed to Garner's death on Staten Island in July. It was ruled a homicide.

Pantaleo's lawyer said he expects it will take at least a month for the panel to reach a decision. He said his client denies any wronging.

The Staten Island District Attorney declined comment.

The president of the PBA says the officers acted properly.

Garner's family is asking the Department of Justice to take over the case. The department says it is monitoring how the NYPD is handling the investigation.

Dr. Michael Baden, once New York City's Medical Examiner, confirmed what the current ME found.

Baden, now in private practice, was hired by Garner's family to review the autopsy and other evidence.

"I'm basically saying that she did a good autopsy, and I agree that there was compression of the neck," he said. "That was the cause of death."

Baden, like the city's Medical Examiner, also determined there were other contributing factors in Garner's death, including his weight. He was diabetic and suffered from asthma.

"There was evidence of pre-existing natural disease that has to be taken into account, but the most severe finding was the neck compression," Baden said.

Two of the officers involved in arresting Garner were placed on desk duty, and one of them lost his badge and gun as a result of what happened.

Four EMTs who responded after Garner stopped breathing were suspended without pay for allegedly not following procedure in responding to the medical emergency.

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