By Josefa Velasquez 2:34 p.m. | Jun. 15, 2015
ALBANY—The mothers of New Yorkers who have died during police interaction are urging lawmakers to reject any “watered down” reforms to the criminal justice system, forcing Governor Andrew Cuomo to make good on his promise to appoint a special prosecutor to handle such cases.
After meeting in April with the mother of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man whose death in police custody ignited protests in New York and around the country, and other relatives of people who have died during police interactions, Cuomo said he would unilaterally appoint a special prosecutor to review cases of police-involved civilian deaths if the Legislature didn't act on his proposal for an independent monitor.
With the Legislature set to adjourn for the year on Wednesday, and other matters like rent control regulation taking precedence, it's unclear whether the Legislature will act on criminal justice reforms this legislative session.
The Republican-led Senate has voted down two Garner-related bills in committee. Meanwhile, members of the Democratic-led Assembly have pushed criminal justice reforms.
"[Cuomo] promised us that he would keep his word, so we're going to hold him to it,” said Gwen Carr, Garner's mother, at a press conference. “And we hope he's an upstanding man, like we think he is, and will keep his word."
“We are here in Albany to make sure our message is very clear to our legislators and Governor Cuomo,” said Valerie Bell, mother of Sean Bell, who died on his wedding night in 2006. “Any criminal justice reform that does not include the governor signing an executive order for a special prosecutor will be inadequate.”
Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi issued the following statement: "The families here today have endured unspeakable tragedies and we agree that the status quo needs to be changed. The governor believes his reform package is a balanced approach that would correct real and perceived inequities that exist within the criminal justice system. As he previously said, the Governor will sign an executive order for a special prosecutor if this legislation doesn't pass."