In rare move, N.Y attorney general releases grand jury transcripts in Daniel Prude case

Axios
·2 min read

A grand jury investigating the case of Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old Black man who died after being restrained by police last year, overwhelming voted against charging three officers with criminally negligent homicide, according to the transcripts of the proceedings released Friday.

Why it matters: The decision not to charge the Rochester, New York, officers was announced in February, but the transcripts offer a rare glimpse into proceedings usually kept secret.

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Catch up quick: Law enforcement was called after Prude experienced a mental health crisis, his brother has said.

  • Body-cam footage of Prude's arrest shows him naked, in the snowy street. Police put a mesh hood over his head and pinned him to the ground.

  • Several minutes later, Prude lost consciousness. He was taken off life support a week later.

  • A county medical examiner ruled Prude's death a homicide, arising from "complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint," with PCP listed as a contributing factor to his death.

  • While his death initially garnered little attention, the release of the body-cam footage last September sparked several days of protests in Rochester, and Police Chief La'Ron Singletary was fired. Seven officers were also suspended.

Details: The grand jury heard from dozens of witnesses, including a medical expert who said the officers did nothing wrong, according to the transcripts.

  • Another expert witness, however, said "the decision to keep [Prude] on his stomach for that period of time was, was unreasonable and against police practice."

  • "The transcripts ... appear to show jurors grappling with a blizzard of technical information about police tactics, and expert testimonies that appeared at times to conflict," the New York Times notes.

What they're saying: "Our efforts to balance the scales of justice and ensure accountability can only go so far in the absence of transparency," New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement Friday.

  • "We took the unprecedented action of seeking to release the grand jury transcripts because the public deserves to know what happened in these proceedings," she added.

Don Thompson, a lawyer for Prude's family, said he was "infuriated" about what he learned from the transcripts and the decision not to indict the officers involved, per NYT.

  • “Who other than somebody who wears a special costume for their work gets this kind of deference in a homicide case? No one."

The big picture: The release of the transcripts comes amid the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of killing George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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