New York waits for grand jury’s decision in Eric Garner’s police chokehold death

NEW YORK (PIX11) - A grand jury vote in the Eric Garner chokehold death could come as early as Wednesday, a lawyer for NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo said.

The panel is believed to have reconvened at 10 a.m. on Staten Island in the closely watched case that has national implications in the aftermath of Ferguson protests and riots.

It's not clear when the jury decision will be made public, but "my expectation is before Friday," Pantaleo's attorney, Stuart London, told PIX11. A source told the Staten Island Advance that the decision is imminent.

The jury would be deciding whether to indict Pantaleo, but is not determining guilt. That would be decided in a subsequent criminal trial if Pantaleo is indicted.

Pantaleo could face a range of charges, as severe as murder to criminally negligent homicide. The city medical examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide, but the New York Times reports that this charge could be unlikely, citing legal experts, given the latitude officers are given to use force.

Garner, 43, died after Pantaleo and several other officers stopped him on July 17 to question him about the alleged sale of loose, untaxed cigarettes.

A witness recorded the confrontation with a cellphone as police attempted to place Garner, who was unarmed, in handcuffs.  As the struggle went to the ground, officer Pantaleo appears to put Garner in a chokehold – a practice banned by the NYPD.

Garner, who was asthmatic, can be heard telling the officers, “I can’t breathe!”

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan asked New Yorkers to be patient Tuesday, saying, “When the decision comes I expect, regardless of the decision, that there’ll be some demonstrations.”

"Well all what we need is peace at this area," said Staten Island resident Ben Baffoe.

"We have been alerting our panel of legal observers to be ready for our request, said Bruce Bentley with the National Lawyers Guild.

The NLG is an organization based in the city that utilizes attorneys, law students and legal workers to observe demonstrations and ensure that protestors are treated fairly by law enforcement.

"The New York City police department is aware, they've seen us out on the streets. We're identified by these green hats that I'm wearing that marks us as legal observers," Bentley said.

Both Donovan and Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, asked for calm in the wake of the destructive protests and looting that followed last week's protests in Ferguson.

The grand jury was impaneled in September, and heard from the final witness -- Pantaleo himself -- in November.

The Advance reports, citing  a source, that the NYPD has requested a four-window from the time the grand jury decides to prepare its response.