Antonio Garcia Hearing – February 1, 2021, 8 pm Eastern
Transcript: Hearing on the Case of Antonio Garcia
- Rapporteur Marjorie Cohn
- Commissioner Mr. Arturo Fournier Facio
- Commissioner Prof. Osamu Niikura
- Ms. Jasmine Roberson, daughter of Antonio Garcia
- Ms. Heather Garcia, wife of Antonio Garcia
- Derek Sieck, attorney for the family of Antonio Garcia
- Jasmine Rand, attorney for the family of Antonio Garcia
Marjorie Cohn 00:00
[Welcome to the hearings of the] International Commission of Inquiry on systemic police violence against people of African descent in the United States. These hearings are a process by which witnesses can present accounts of the unjustified killings and maimings of Black individuals, by police officers in the United States before an international panel of human rights experts. We now begin the hearing in the case of Antonio Garcia. My name is Marjorie Cohn and I am the rapporteur for this hearing. Presiding over this hearing are Commissioner Arturo Fournier of Costa Rica, and Commissioner Osamu Niikura of Japan. The witnesses for this hearing will be Derrick Sieck, Jasmine Rand, Heather Garcia, and Jasmine Roberson. There will be 50 minutes for this hearing. Witnesses will testify, followed by a period of questions from commissioners, I will call time at the 30 minute mark and at the 45 minute mark. Please excuse my interruptions. Commissioners Fournier and Niikura, I now present to you the first witness Derek Sieck. Derek Sieck, please confirm your name.
Derek Sieck 01:31
My name is Derek Sieck.
Marjorie Cohn 01:33
Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Derek Sieck 01:40
Marjorie Cohn 01:42
You may begin.
Derek Sieck 01:44
Alright, good evening. My name is Derek Sieck of the Onder law firm in St. Louis, Missouri, and I along with my co counsel John Cusick. Ken Barr and Ken Barnes, of the Barnes law firm and Benjamin Crump of the Ben Crump law firm represented the family of Antonio Garcia Jr. and their case against the city of Leavenworth, Kansas and officer Harrington. The circumstances surrounding the case were completely preventable and unnecessary as Antonio Garcia was murdered and left behind those who loved him at much too young an age. Antonio Garcia is survived by his wife, Heather, who is with us today and also his children, Jasmine Roberson, who is also with us tonight. Antonio Garcia III, Antoinette Harrington, Anthony Garcia, Gabriel Garcia and Danelle Garcia. As stated, Jasmine and Heather with are with us tonight, and I believe both will be participating in tonight’s hearing. In addition to his daughter, we are also joined by Jasmine Rand of the Rand Law LLC who works closely with attorney Crump, on a number of cases throughout the United States who will speak more to the systemic issues that she sees throughout the entire United States. I will begin by briefly talking about the facts at issue of this case and then turn it over to attorney Rand to talk a little bit more about the other systemic issues in the United States that we face. And then we will also hear from Jasmine, and Heather, the family members of Antonio Garcia on how this has impacted their lives. As stated this case rose up, arose out of the police shooting and killing of Antonio Garcia on July 17 of 2017. On that date, Officer Matthew Harrington of the city of Leavenworth Police Department responded to a call at 8:15pm at the Garcia household. Officer Harrington arrived at the home of Antonio and his wife Heather, and knocked on the door and spoke with Jordan Hart, the step son of Mr. Garcia.
After discussing a couple of issues with Jordan, the officer radioed to police dispatch and stated that the situation was not a criminal matter. At about the same time, Antonio Garcia pulled his vehicle into the driveway at his own residence and parked the vehicle. At that time, Officer Harrington exited his home and went down to the stairs to talk to Mr. Garcia. Officer Harrington put his right hand on his gun as he approached Mr. Garcia’s vehicle, and when he approached the vehicle, Mr. Garcia had his windows and his vehicle door closed. Officer Harrington attempted to open the door and Mr. Garcia likely fearing for his life, as he had previously seen Officer Harrington put his hand on his weapon, shut the door. At no point did Mr. Garcia ever threaten or verbally interact with officer Harrington after Mr. Harrington, attempted to shut his door. Officer Harrington stepped away from the vehicle and began discharging his weapon. At no point did officer Harrington ever warn Mr. Garcia that he intended to use his weapon. Rather, he simply walked away and began firing. Following the shooting officer Harrington,did very, officer Harrington did very little to assist Mr. Garcia, who had been shot and was bleeding out in his front seat. When Heather, a registered nurse and the wife of Antonio Garcia, attempted to provide medical assistance officer Harrington prevented her from doing so. And unfortunately, Antonio Garcia passed away as a result of his injuries.
Ben Crump, John Kusick, Ken Barnes and myself represented the family members in a civil lawsuit against the city of Leavenworth, Kansas, officer, and also officer Matthew Harrington. We filed the lawsuit back in June of 2018. alleging officer liability under the United States section 1983 for a violation of Mr. Garcia’s civil rights and the violation of policy or custom of the Leavenworth police department, municipal liability for failure to train and supervise the officers and also the wrongful death of Mr. Antonio Garcia. In conjunction with the civil lawsuit, we also filed the complaint for injunctive relief, or sorry, relief and the release of public records in order to obtain a copy of the body cam footage. The issue in this case and in Kansas, is that under the Kansas open record act, body cam footage is not readily available as it is in a number of other states. In that case, we alleged that the city of Leavenworth had refused to allow us the opportunity to review documents, which included video, audio, and photographic evidence depicting the killing of Mr. Garcia.
All of this was being done despite the attorneys representing the city of Leavenworth, and the police investigating the crime being allowed access to the video. Important to note was that around the same time, as we were filing both of our lawsuits, Kansas lawmakers took steps towards transparency in law enforcement by unanimously passing Senate Bill 336, which made it easier for the public and the families of victims Do you have access to body cam footage. The law was passed on May 18 2018, and signed into law by the governor of Kansas on May 10 of 2018. The bill allows for family members to view body cam footage after making a formal a formal request in compliance with Kansas statutes. Our offices made that request compliant with that law. However, we did not receive that information. In this case we had to call and hear.
We called and had heard a hearing on November in November of 2018, in which a number of witnesses from both the Kansas City or sorry, the city of Leavenworth police department, and then also other interested groups such as the Kansas ACLU, More Squared. former police commissioners from the Kansas City area, chair of the NAACP of Johnson County, as well as the Kansas interfaith Association and the Kansas Libertarian Party testified at the hearing regarding the issues with transparency in the police department. Ultimately, the judge ruled that our offices would have access to the video. But we could not disseminate that video to the general public, and we were given access to the video under a strict order of protection. Ultimately, after the judge ruled in our favor, and allowed us access to the video, the city of Leavenworth approached us and we were able to reach a civil settlement on behalf of the family. The video was never released to the general public and presently officer Harrington is still facing potential criminal charges in the case. Officer Harrington was charged with involuntary manslaughter and is still awaiting his criminal trial. While the civil lawsuit is now over, the family of Antonio Garcia has been left with a number of unanswered questions and has not received justice for the murder of their father. Well, nothing will ever bring Antonio Garcia back. The family is hopeful that by participating in hearings, such as this one and continuing to be vocal in their calls for systematic change both on a local and the national level, that they can prevent future completely or sorry, completely senseless police violence, so no family ever has to deal with what they’ve dealt with.
Our hope for tonight is that by participating in the UN Human Rights Council, that we can help bring an end to the continuing racial, racial, discriminatory and violent practices perpetrated by law enforcement against African Americans in the United States. Unfortunately, since the passing of Mr. Garcia, we are still seeing countless killings and maimings of unarmed and unthreatening Black individuals. Clearly there continues to be an issue in the United States. And we are hoping that someday we can truly make a change. At this time, I will allow attorney Rand to speak to some of the larger systemic issues that she’s seen. And unfortunately, in this case, we aren’t able to share the video as once again, Kansas laws and everything like that has prevented us from doing so as those are still under a protective order given the ongoing nature of the criminal case. At this time, I’ll turn it over to attorney Rand.
Marjorie Cohn 10:02
Thank you, Mr. Sieck. Commissioners Fournier and Niikura, I now present to you the second witness, Jasmine Rand, Jasmine Rand, please confirm your name.
Jasmine Rand 10:14
Marjorie Cohn 10:16
You promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Jasmine Rand 10:23
Yes, I do. And I would just request could we swear in the other two witnesses as well and then I’ll defer the floor first to Jasmine Roberson, his daughter, and then to Heather Garcia, his wife and then I will offer some closing remarks and we’ll answer some any of the questions that the commissioners have.
Marjorie Cohn 10:42
That would be fine. Thank you.
Jasmine Roberson 10:46
Marjorie Cohn 10:50
Commissioners, Fournier and Niikura, Jasmine Roberson, please confirm your name.
Jasmine Roberson 10:57
My name is Jasmine Roberson.
Marjorie Cohn 11:00
Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Jasmine Roberson 11:07
Marjorie Cohn 11:09
Thank you. Heather Garcia, please confirm your name. Is Heather Garcia present?
Heather Garcia 11:27
Yes, I’m sorry.
Marjorie Cohn 11:29
Please confirm your name.
Heather Garcia 11:31
Marjorie Cohn 11:36
Do you promise that the testimony you will provide to the Commission of Inquiry will be to the best of your knowledge and belief true and correct.
Heather Garcia 11:45
Marjorie Cohn 11:46
Thank you. Attorney Rand, you may proceed.
Jasmine Rand 11:52
Miss Roberson. If you could please offer your your witness testimony.
Jasmine Roberson 11:58
My name is Jasmine Roberson and I am Antonio Garcia’s daughter. In July of 2017, my father was sitting in his car. at his home when officer Matthew Harrington confronted him. Officer Harrington began to pull the car door open without explaining why he was opening the door. And my father was frightened and tried to close the door and pull out of the driveway. When my father tried to drive away. Officer Harrington fired his gun multiple times into the car, killing my father. My father’s wife, Heather Garcia, a trained medical provider tried to save my father’s life. But the officer didn’t let her. Instead, he moved people away from the scene. so there would be no witnesses as my father was dying in his car. My father died that night, and officer Harrington slept in his own bed with no consequences of unlawfully shooting and killing my father.
Officer Harrington was indicted by a grand jury for involuntary manslaughter. However, this is not enough. involuntary manslaughter means it was an accident. That officer Harrington accidentally pulled out his weapon. He accidentally went to my father’s car and pulled the door open. He accidentally fired multiple shots at my father, he accidentally shot my father in the head and chest. He accidentally refused to allow his wife to render medical attention. He accidentally told people to leave the scene. So it would be his word against a dead Black man’s. Nothing about his behavior was accidental. He intended to kill my father, and he was motivated to shoot based on my father’s race. My father’s death is the biggest, I’m sorry. My father’s death is bigger than one officer, as it highlights the systematic problem not only in my home state of Kansas, but in our country. Before my father’s death, body camera footage was not subject to mandatory disclosure in the state of Kansas. On top of that most police departments wouldn’t even release the names of officers involved in shootings to the victims families. These laws made it so that one that I only heard the police officer’s side of the story and nothing more. Officers, like Harrington can paint people like my father in any light they see fit to prove under any circumstances necessary, that they fear for their lives. So they are able to kill unarmed Black people.
It took protests and movements for us not only to get the body camera footage, but the name of the officer who killed my father, I am still in awe that there was a possibility that I could not have known who killed my father because of systems that favor protecting the police over the people. Those officers are sworn to protect. You might not have heard my father’s name until today. But he is a representative of the majority of the black men and women killed by police whose names are swept under the rug. I am not only speaking on behalf of my father, but on behalf of the 1000s of black men and women who are victims of police brutality, and racism. And whose names though unknown, I am speaking for the families that are begging for the police to release body camera footage. So they can know the truth about what happened to their father or mother, to their son or daughter, to their family. I am here on behalf of those families who did not have a recording of the police brutality that forever changed their lives. For the families that have to live in a world where their loved ones murderers still roam free to wreck havoc on families under the guise of protecting and serving. I am asking that this commission to bring justice to those families and for my father, Antonio Garcia. Thank you.
Marjorie Cohn 17:21
Miss Roberson, I am so sorry for the loss of your father. And I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your courageous testimony before this commission. You can be very, very useful to help other people avoid what your father suffered in the future.
Jasmine Roberson 17:41
Jasmine Rand 17:44
Thank you so much, Mrs. Roberson for your bravery tonight and for sharing your father’s story with this important commission and continuing to fight for justice for your father. I believe we also have Mrs. Garcia on the line. Mrs. Heather Garcia, would you like to offer a statement before the commission?
Heather Garcia 18:03
I do. I was not. Go ahead. I’m sorry.
Jasmine Rand 18:07
Mrs. Heather Garcia is the wife of Antonio Garcia. So go ahead, Mrs. Garcia.
Heather Garcia 18:14
Thank you. I actually was informed about this just shortly. So I don’t have a detailed statement. I do want to say that Antonio’s life, Antonio Garcia Jr’s life has affected us – being his killing has affected our family and many others tremendously. My children witnessed it. And it’s been a very, very hard time for us. I just want to thank Jasmine for stepping up and saying, I agree with everything she said, I do want to add that he was murdered on July 11 2017. He was not being violent. He was pulling into his driveway. And I witnessed it, as long, as well as four of my children and my grandchildren that saw their grandfather and their father murdered and they’re now going through their own mental, mental health issues with that with post traumatic syndrome and other things. But I agree with Jasmine, I think everything she said totally, I agree with and I just think there needs to be justice for those men that police officers are afraid of, for there needs to be more training. There needs to be something done to prevent this happening to other families like ours. So thank you.
Jasmine Rand 19:42
Ms. Cohn, I think you’re muted –
Marjorie Cohn 19:49
Yes, thank you, Mrs. Garcia, for your testimony in this commission hearing and my condolences to you for the loss of your husband and to your children for the loss of their father. Thank you for being here. Thank you.
Jasmine Rand 20:06
Good evening commissioners. My name is attorney Jasmine Rand and I am with Rand Law LLC, based in Miami, Florida and I was asked to be on this hearing tonight, because I’ve worked very closely with attorney Benjamin Crump, who was also counsel to Antonio Garcia for for over a decade now on probably 100 or more of these police brutality cases throughout the country. I’m also, in addition to being an attorney. I am a professor of law, and I write courses and teach on the topic of police brutality. Currently, Benjamin Crump and I are co teaching a course called lawyering a movement, hashtag justice for George Floyd. And so he asked me to join this hearing this evening, he sent his apologies that he’s unable to make it himself to talk a bit about the systemic and structural racism and police brutality facing persons of African descent in America.
And I offered testimony earlier this week, or I guess last week now, in the matters of George Floyd and Michael Brown and Jacob Blake. I’m currently counsel, international counsel, on the George Floyd matter, and helped prepare the urgent appeal to the United Nations for the George Floyd case. And so often so many of these names, you know, the commissioners and and the people who convened this commission of inquiry may have heard, they may have heard George Floyd, they may have heard the name, Michael Brown, they may have heard the name Jacob Blake, those are some of the names that made national and international news. And one of the reasons I believe that those cases, made national and international headlines and got so much attention in terms of the police brutality committed in those cases is because there was the existence of video evidence. But I think that Antonio Garcia’s case is so important. Because the cases where we have video evidence of what occurred in real time, the cases where we have audio evidence of what occurred in real time are the exception to the rule. By and large, we do not have video evidence of people murdered by police. By and large, we do not have audio evidence of African Americans murdered by police in America.
In cases like Antonio Garcia’s, the name may not be as familiar, it did not get as much national and international media, in part because Kansas had laws at the time suppressing the video evidence and the video continues to be to be suppressed by by the local government and has not yet been released, despite the request for injunctive relief, by local council and by attorneys, by attorney Benjamin Crump. But certainly his case is as significant because Antonio Garcia represents the majority of African Americans out there who have become victims of police brutality and their families who do not have the evidence to share, they don’t have the video testimony to share of the last moments of their loved ones’ lives. And they face a much more difficult uphill battle, advocating for justice for their loved ones, because they’re not provided with the evidence to do so. In fact, in this case, it was quite some time before they even learned the name of the shooting officer. And so you can imagine how difficult it was for this family and for their attorneys advocating for justice on his behalf. And the other thing that I’ve discussed a lot in these hearings is the public nature of what I’ve been referring to as these public executions. To me, what is happening to African Americans in America is not much different to public executions, like we see in in Saudi Arabia, you know, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But what’s happening here is very public executions. And I asked the other commissioners, that I that I provided testimony in front of, to pay close attention to where these these killings occur. Because they’re not happening often in the vale of night.
George Floyd, Michael Brown, Jacob Blake, those shootings all occurred in the middle of the day in the middle of the communities, broad daylight with people around witnessing and watching what happened. People were holding up cameras and even that didn’t stop the police. In this case, you just heard Mrs. Garcia’s testimony that the officer, you know, shot Antonio Garcia in front of his four children, his grandchildren and his wife. In the Jacob Blake case that I provide a testimony on earlier this week, they killed Jacob Blake at his son’s birthday party. These are public executions. These are extrajudicial killings, where police officers are acting as a judge, jury and executioner and depriving citizens of due process of law and it’s extremely Important. The work that you’re doing, commissioners, is extremely important. Because when we are unable to, to get the true justice that people deserve within our nation, when our government and democracy is not functioning in the way that it’s meant to function, we look to the international community to hold us accountable, as we, as Americans have sought to hold other people accountable for human rights violations historically. And so commissioners, that’s what we’re looking to you to do tonight, is to hold the United States accountable for the extrajudicial killings, police brutality directed at people of African descent, and I’m happy to discuss some of the reform measures that we’ve requested, if the commissioners wish to discuss that this evening, but I will leave it to you to ensure that there’s enough time for questions.
Marjorie Cohn 25:55
Commissioners Fournier and Niikura, would you like to ask questions of attorney Rand?
Arturo Fournier Facio 26:10
Okay, start asking a question. First of all, I want to give my heartfelt condolences to your family. Mrs. Roberson, and Mrs. Garcia. It’s it’s been quite a terrible grieving you’re going through. So please accept my condolences to you and to all your family.
Also, well, we want to be of some assistance from the International point of view in order to bring more justice or, justice, to this case. And to other cases, as Attorney Rand has quoted, I have a, I will pose some questions that may seem strange to you that you are so aware of, in the case. But it’s our obligation to find the whole truth about this thing. And so please excuse the some of the questions are not as pleasant as they should be. First of all, As you may see, I am from Costa Rica, and a Latin American country. And Garcia is a Latin American name. So I wanted to know, where was he from? And did he speak English in a fluent way?
Heather Garcia 27:45
He only spoke English. Yes. This is Heather Garcia.
Arturo Fournier Facio 27:51
Yes, yes, I can see. Thank you very much. So another thing. Usually, policemen or police officers, allege they their life has been threatened and that they have been in a deep danger. This does Mr. Garcia, or Antonio did he have a weapon in his hand, he, was he tried to attack the police officer, Harrington?
Heather Garcia 28:26
And this is Heather Garcia. Again, she did not have a weapon in his hand. They can’t -KBI could not find any threatening reason why the officer would feel intimidated that he would harm him. Right. So no, he did, he did not have a weapon in his hand showing any threat to the officer.
Jasmine Rand 28:58
I’m sorry. I think we have a bit of a delay. Commissioner, if I may. The fact that manslaughter charges were brought against the officer, those manslaughter charges are actually still pending. And the judge, Judge Michael Gibbons just decided in June of 2020, that the force used by the officer was not statutorily justified as a self defense use of force. And, and so it’s uncommon, as you may imagine, for our court systems to find that, to charge an officer criminally period. And then it’s also unusual for a judge to find that it’s not. He’s denied any statutory self defense from from the conception of the hear – of the, of the trial.
Marjorie Cohn 29:44
I just want to indicate that this is the 30 minute mark. Thank you.
Arturo Fournier Facio 29:49
All right. Did the police officer apply any de escalation tactic prior to the use of force, did he?
Jasmine Rand 30:01
No, there were no verbal commands issued. There was no verbal command. He did not attempt. And I can’t I can’t say that I know what weapons he would have had on him. But he did not attempt to use any other weapon. He just resorted to using his gun.
Arturo Fournier Facio 30:19
Who was using?
Jasmine Rand 30:21
The police officer.
Arturo Fournier Facio 30:22
Ah, the police officer, of course. They, did he show any search warrant to the family prior to Mr. Garcia’s arrival?
Derek Sieck 30:40
No, no, search warrants were issued or was present or anything like that. He actually deemed the matter civil and non criminal before. There was no criminal active investigation or anything like that going on.
Arturo Fournier Facio 30:59
Oh, he also radioed, stated that there was not a criminal case. Correct. And when he approached it, Antonio’s car, did he read him his Miranda rights?
Heather Garcia 31:16
Arturo Fournier Facio 31:19
Was he wearing a body camera?
Jasmine Rand 31:23
Yes, I believe he was but it has not been released. Is that right? Derek?
Derek Sieck 31:29
There was dashcam footage. I believe there’s also a body cam. Actually,
Heather Garcia 31:34
I don’t – there’s a body. I don’t mean to interrupt. This is Heather Garcia. There is body cam. They just have not released it. I saw the video because I was part of part of what happened.
Derek Sieck 31:52
Yes, that’s correct. There is also dashcam footage from the vehicle.
Arturo Fournier Facio 32:03
Do you try to have any relation official relations or hearings with administrative officials from the, the police department, the major office or any other?
Jasmine Rand 32:23
Derek Sieck 32:25
So we did have did have a hearing with regards to our open records request request that was heard in the district court in Kansas. But as far as court hearings or anything like that goes, we never got to depose the officer or anything like that. The case, the civil case itself resolved itself prior to any any sort of issue or anything like that moving forward. So no deposition or anything like that was ever taken. And I expect that had we taken a deposition he would have just pled the fifth as he has an ongoing criminal case.
Jasmine Rand 33:13
Commissioner, Commissioner Facio, we can’t hear you.
Arturo Fournier Facio 33:22
All right, it was silenced. Now, I know that there has been a judicial case. But the the family tried to approach the police department, any other enforcement law, the major office before going into court?
Derek Sieck 33:43
So we did make you did make open records. Under KORA, which is the Kansas open Records Act. We did. And we did contact the police department letting them know that we represented the family members. But in these sorts of cases in the United States, what we generally do is we file the civil lawsuit, because that gives us access to the police department and those sorts of individuals.
Arturo Fournier Facio 34:16
Family members have stated that they had a lot of problems watching the video. How do you have access to the evidence available or in state custody or in the police custody?
Derek Sieck 34:33
So, under Kansas law, were granted very limited access to the video. So as participants of the lawsuit being the wrongful death beneficiaries of Antonio Garcia, they are, they were entitled to as a part of our lawsuit to view the video. I don’t believe all members of the family have actually viewed the video, only a few members of the family have actually viewed this. Because it is very difficult to watch.
Jasmine Rand 35:07
And the release of videos is is generally state specific. And so each state sets their own law in terms of when a video is released, for example, in Florida, they, if it’s a video depicting a killing, then the video is read has to be released to the family member. But it just it varies state to state, Kansas has one of the more repressive laws in terms of, of video footage and releasing public records.
Arturo Fournier Facio 35:37
Apart from watch, you’d have heard in court, from the defendant or his representatives? Whether there are some explanation by the city of whether the use of lethal force by the officer complied with international human rights patterns?
Derek Sieck 36:01
The city did …the officer. But obviously, with the ongoing lawsuit and everything like that, I don’t think they were really going to be making any statements as to the officer’s conduct. They did terminate the officer but other than that, I don’t know that they really made any sort of statement.
Jasmine Rand 36:25
Generally, generally, our courts do not make statements in terms of whether or not it complies with international human rights standards. I do think it’s significant, again, that the county judge found that the force used by the officer was not statutorily justified as self defense. And because there was that, that finding Commissioner, it leads me to believe that it didn’t it could not have complied with human rights norms and standards.
Arturo Fournier Facio 36:53
I also asked this, because, well, from the human side of this, as I saw, Mrs. Roberson cried. At least there should be an explanation or an excuse of an official from the police department or someone saying we are sorry that this happened anything at all?
Derek Sieck 37:21
Unfortunately, I don’t really have any, that requires them to make the statement.
Arturo Fournier Facio 37:32
Well, going back to court, what was the response of the district attorney, the prosecutor, prosecutor or part of the trial, how did they behave? According to this case?
Jasmine Rand 37:52
The criminal prosecution is ongoing. And so he was charged with involuntary manslaughter. And not I know –
Arturo Fournier Facio 38:03
What the, what response the district attorney gave to the family? Is he helping them? Is he trying to take the case ahead? Carry on with the case?
Heather Garcia 38:19
Not to my knowledge. All right.
Jasmine Rand 38:24
So the case, the cases is ongoing, but I don’t believe that there’s been a lot of communication between the prosecutor’s office and the family members, but it’s still moving forward. And pending. I think the prosecution has probably been slowed also because of the pandemic.
Arturo Fournier Facio 38:50
Another question. What was the attitude of the main media, the press? How did they cover this?
Derek Sieck 39:02
So this case was covered a little bit locally, it never got too much national attention. And, I mean, the Kansas City Star covered the case pretty extensively. But unfortunately, with the Kansas open Records Act, and as Miss Rand kind of spoke to when the videos aren’t released, when there isn’t really a lot of transparency, these cases don’t get quite as much as traction or attention nationally, as they probably deserve and as they probably should get.
Jasmine Rand 39:45
And Commissioner, just to speak a bit more to media and media reaction. It’s so important. I was actually doing a British television show the other day and they were making light of the fact that we as attorneys in America, are often advocates in the court of public opinion and in the media and they were being very flippant about it. But I very quickly reminded them that if it was not for the media and not for the court of public opinion in America very often aren’t, these families would never get justice in a court of law. And it is because we have to first try these cases in the court of public opinion and local and national and international media that there’s ever an arrest made. And so I firmly believe that nobody would have been arrested for murdering George Floyd, for example, had we not involved media in that case, and so many of these other cases that are currently before the commission.
Arturo Fournier Facio 40:41
Did you have any possibility to talk knowledge or demonstrate that somebody was lying about the initial narrative?
Jasmine Rand 40:56
Derek Sieck 40:58
I mean, unfortunately, with this case, there really wasn’t much of a narrative from the beginning. I mean, we, we were never able to release the video. So the police officer stood by his statement that he was doing it in self defense. But unfortunately, we really haven’t been able to confront the issue, or any issues of lying by the police department or anything like that, given that, we haven’t been able to have the video released. And I mean, I think, hopefully, with the criminal, criminal trial and everything like that, some of those issues will come to light. But as as of today, and as of right now, I don’t believe they have been.
Arturo Fournier Facio 41:43
So far, justice has not not been served.
Jasmine Rand 41:53
No, Commissioner. Oh, they, they were able to, in many of these cases, we, like the attorneys were here are successful in civil court, and are successful in obtaining civil recovery on behalf of the families and the victims, as the attorneys were in this case. Unfortunately, that often does not yield the same results. And in the field of criminal justice, as this case is ongoing, you know, we have to remain hopeful that there will be a better outcome in this prosecution. Again, he is charged with involuntary manslaughter and there is an ongoing prosecution. But the outcome of that is is yet to be determined. And unfortunately, so often we see the officers and even with prosecutions, juries will still return, you know, a not guilty verdict.
Arturo Fournier Facio 42:48
So, so far, he has not been accountable yet.
Jasmine Rand 42:53
No, he has not been accountable.
Arturo Fournier Facio 42:56
Does he still work with then the police force. You know, well, at least something, and is he working with any other police department any anywhere else? No. No? Well, then it seems so far there has been impunity?
Jasmine Rand 43:30
Arturo Fournier Facio 43:33
This is terrible. Well, again, my deepest sympathy with Mrs. Roberson and Mrs. Garcia. And all the families.
Marjorie Cohn 43:48
There are six minutes left in the hearing. Commissioner Niikura, do you want to ask any questions of the witnesses?
Osamu Niikura 44:00
No, thank you.
Marjorie Cohn 44:04
I have a question for the attorneys. Do you expect that the body cam footage will be made public during the criminal trial?
Jasmine Rand 44:18
Maybe not during maybe after the criminal trial? Derek, you may have more insight into that than I do.
Derek Sieck 44:24
Yes, I don’t believe it will be released before during the call, I think maybe potentially after it might be released. The judge made it fairly clear when he was ruling that in order to protect, unfortunately, the officer in this case in the court of public opinion, the video was not to be released to the public.
Marjorie Cohn 44:53
My understanding is having been a criminal defense attorney for many years that relevant evidence should be presented by the prosecution at a public trial. And I don’t understand why extremely relevant evidence, which is the body cam footage would not be presented by the prosecutor if he or she was serious about getting a conviction for involuntary manslaughter, which is the charge of the prosecutor has brought against the officer.
Derek Sieck 45:25
Yes, I agree. But unfortunately, the law the way that it is in the state of Kansas, we’re not able, like, like they said, or like we said earlier, it is not allowed to be released. In many other states here in the United States, it would be allowed to be released. But Kansas has a conservative legislature. So even the statute that we were able to get it released under is extremely limited. And basically, it’s release of the video only to the family member.
Arturo Fournier Facio 46:02
It hasn’t been released to the public. But is it part of the court file?
Derek Sieck 46:10
I would assume it is the criminal court file. I,we did not participate in the criminal prosecution. Obviously, that’s between the prosecutor and the defense attorney. But we were only able to view it under extremely, an extremely thorough protective order.
Arturo Fournier Facio 46:38
In this country, things like that evidence like that, of course, is part of the court file. It is not released. Nobody can see it. For example, if I go as a lawyer, and I asked for that footage, they will tell me no, it’s restricted to the attorneys participated, or representing people in the case, but it’s in the file. It should be there.
Derek Sieck 47:10
Marjorie Cohn 47:12
Since the killing of Mr. Garcia, have there been other police killings of people of African descent in Leavenworth?
Heather Garcia 47:22
There were before his murder, but not after to my belief.
Jasmine Roberson 47:29
Marjorie Cohn 47:33
And how much media coverage did this case receive?
Jasmine Rand 47:39
Comparatively it received pretty minimal media coverage received, mostly local. And again, that’s probably due to the fact that the body camera footage has not been released. Just in observing, I work as a media consultant, with Ben and on many of these cases. And if there’s no audio and no video recording, it’s very difficult to garner anything beyond local media attention.
Marjorie Cohn 48:11
Thank you. We have two minutes remaining. Do either of the commissioners have any concluding questions for the witnesses?
Osamu Niikura 48:22
Are there any systemic efforts to improve the situation? in each state.
Jasmine Rand 48:37
Efforts to improve police brutality in general or excessive force extrajudicial killings?
Osamu Niikura 48:45
Jasmine Rand 48:46
So there are there are efforts in states and generally what happens is, is one of these police killings happens and it gets on national and international radar. For example, the Breonna Taylor case led to eliminating no knock warrants in some places. The George Floyd case led to eliminating chokeholds, for example, in some police departments. But there is what really needs to happen is is federal intervention. Right now we’re fighting these things on a state by state basis. But we really need more systemic reform. One of the main things that we need I believe, are independent prosecutions. And I also believe we need independent medical examiners and that’s so critical, because oftentimes the body gives us the best evidence in terms of whether or not this was excessive force, and whether or not the killing was justified. And attorneys like myself and Benjamin Crump have to spend about $3,000 to $6,000 of our money to pay for independent autopsies on behalf of families. Many families and many attorneys even can’t afford to do that for their clients. Fortunately, we can but it should not be up to us to deliver justice — that is the job of the government. And so for example, there are jurisdictions; I represented a Haitian man who a cop ran over. A police officer hit him with his police car and killed him. And the medical examiner concluded that he died from alcohol intoxication because he drank too, here. And so we see that happen frequently where medical examiners cover for police officers and so we need to have independent prosecutions, independent medical examiners, training on de escalation techniques, there needs to be federal reform, not just state by state.
Marjorie Cohn 50:37
Thank you to the witnesses. This concludes the hearing in the case of Antonio Garcia. We will now take a short break. hearings will resume on the hour in the case of Andrew Kearse. Thank you.
Jasmine Rand 50:50
Thank you for your time, commissioners.