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N.Y. Attorney General Wants Jurisdiction Over All Killings by Cops

New York's attorney general asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo for immediate jurisdiction over all cases in which cops kill unarmed civilians.

New York's attorney general asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday to immediately be given jurisdiction over all cases in which cops kill unarmed civilians, saying cases like the death of Eric Garner leave the state's minority community "with the belief that our criminal justice system has both unjustly targeted and inexplicably failed them." Cuomo's office said it was studying the request, which one New York City district strongly protested.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's letter (PDF) warned of a public "crisis of confidence" that prosecutors don't or aren't able to set aside "the close working relationship between the county District Attorney and the police officers he or she works with and depends on every day." He asked Cuomo to issue an immediate interim executive action allowing his office to take all police killings of unarmed civilians out of local prosecutors' hands until the state Assembly can pass legislation to "permanently address this issue".

Schneiderman's maneuver didn't sit well with Brooklyn prosecutor Ken Thompson, who said in a statement that "as the duly elected district attorney," it was his job, not the attorney general's, to investigate and prosecute local cases. "Local prosecutors who are elected to enforce the laws in those communities should not be robbed of their ability to faithfully and fairly do so in cases where police officers shoot, kill or injure someone unjustly," said Thompson, whose office is impaneling a grand jury to investigate the fatal shooting last month of Akai Gurley, an unarmed black man, in what the police commissioner called an accident.

Speaking Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" before Schneiderman made his proposal, Cyrus Vance Jr., the district attorney for Manhattan, said he was open to the idea of outside prosecutors' investigating police killings of civilians, but he warned: "Be aware for what you ask for. Special prosecutors who have been appointed in the past are accountable to no one. And when you're not accountable to anyone, as a D.A. is to the electorate, you're likely to get a special prosecutor — Ken Starr, for example — who can go off for years spending millions of public dollars without result."

Schneiderman's proposal wouldn't be retroactive, meaning that if Cuomo approves his request, the attorney general's office would not review the killings of Garner or Gurley.