Local and national activists demonstrated last Saturday and again Monday in protest of a Bronx judge’s decision on May 15 to throw out a manslaughter indictment against a New York City police officer charged last year with the shooting death of unarmed teenager Ramarley Graham.
Graham was gunned down on Feb. 2, 2012 after NYPD Officer Richard Haste chased the 18-year-old youth into his own apartment and then shot him at close range as Graham was allegedly trying to flush marijuana down the toilet.
Bronx Supreme Court Justice Steven Barrett dismissed the case on a technicality ruling prosecutors gave the grand jury flawed instructions during the February 2012 proceeding, but also made it clear that prosecutors could again bring up charges against Haste.
Specifically, Barrett ruled prosecutors wrongly instructed the grand jury members that they didn’t need to consider information relayed to Officer Haste by fellow officers that Graham had a gun.
“Inadvertently, the district attorney’s instructions did mislead the jury,” the judge was reported as saying. “In effect, the grand jury was told…the communications of the officers were not relevant. This is blatantly wrong.”
The decision created an uproar from Graham’s family and friends, who had filled the tiny courtroom.
“What more can you do to me?” shouted Graham’s mother, Constance Malcolm. “You killed my g— child.”
Following the decision, the National Action Network and the Stop Mass Incarceration Network held rallies attended by Graham’s family members both last Saturday and again Monday to demand justice.
“This is an outrageous miscarriage of justice and an insult to the family and supporters of Ramarley Graham. We demand that a new grand jury is convened immediately and that the case is properly presented,” said Rev. Al Sharpton in a statement.
Meanwhile members of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network went both to Graham’s home in the Bronx to show support, and then gathered in front of the 47th NYPD Precinct with a banner that read “Justice for Ramarley Graham”.
“First, this cop murders Ramarley in the bathroom of his home. Then, only after protests and outpourings of anger towards Richard Haste, the killer, indicted but on manslaughter charges four months later, not murder,” said Stop Mass Incarceration Network spokesperson Travis Morales. “The prosecutors have no problem filling the prisons with 2.4 million mainly Black and Latino people, but when the cops murder one of us they forget how to prosecute.”
Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson said he disagreed with the decision and will wait for the judge’s written ruling before deciding on whether to appeal or to convene a new grand jury.
“It cannot be said more forcefully that we disagree with the court,” Johnson said in a statement. “As we await the court’s written decision, we will begin the process of weighing which of the options—appeal of the decision or representation to the grand jury—better serves the people of the Bronx.”
The case was the first in which an NYPD officer was charged criminally with a shooting in the line of duty since 2007, when three officers were charged in the death of unarmed Queens resident Sean Bell.