Bronx, New York: Last week, the Bronx District Attorney's Office began a new grand jury process to consider re-indicting Richard Haste, the NYPD officer who killed Ramarley Graham in his Bronx home on Feb. 2, 2012. This forward progress in the Haste case comes on the heels of the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who in the same month killed a different black youth in Florida — Trayvon Martin.
Soon after Graham's killing last year, a Bronx grand jury indicted Haste on two counts of manslaughter; the first indictment of an NYPD officer for killing a civilian since 2007. However, this past May, Judge Steven Barrett dismissed the indictment due to an error made by Assistant District Attorney Nancy Borko when instructing jurors.
Now the process has begun again. The new grand jury will hear witness statements and consider evidence against Haste over the next several weeks behind closed doors. It will conclude with a decision to either re-indict Haste or let him walk free.
According to Civil Rights leaders and Graham's supporters, racial profiling, the undervaluing of the lives Black and brown youth, and failures of the criminal justice system are common denominators of the Ramarley Graham and Trayvon Martin cases. They project a long struggle for justice in both cases.
"[The new grand jury] is an important victory and a first step in bringing justice to the family of Ramarley Graham," said Hazel N. Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference, "We will continue to work in New York and across this country to put an end to racial profiling and police misconduct, and to ensure that those who take the lives of young men - like Ramarley Graham, like Trayvon Martin and so many others - are held accountable."
"Whether it's Stand Your Ground or Stop and Frisk, we will continue to demand an end to racial profiling and policies that jeopardize the safety of young Black men like Trayvon Martin and Ramarely Graham," said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorOfChange. "ColorOfChange members remain deeply committed to seeking justice for Trayvon and Ramarley. We will not be satisfied until George Zimmerman and Ramarley's killer — NYPD Officer Richard Haste – are both held accountable and until there's an end to racial profiling and the violence it creates."
"Ramarley Graham's death was a tragedy which shook the members of my community and left us with heavy hearts," said Council Member Andy King. "The subsequent struggle to obtain justice in this case has only served to add feelings of confusion and indignation. The recent not-guilty ruling on the George Zimmerman case has sparked similar feelings across the nation and both cases highlight a pattern of racial profiling and a failure of the system to hold accountable those who murder our young men of color. Yes, the new grand jury convened for the Ramarley Graham case is an important victory, but in 2013 we should not have to plead for justice in a legal system that is already tasked with protecting us from discrimination and racial profiling. We will have to remain focused and committed as we work to break down this system of indifference towards the injustices we find ourselves facing nation wide."
"The new grand jury is an important victory, but it is only one small step on a long road to justice," said Loyda Colon of the Justice Committee, a group that supports family members who have lost loved-ones to police and racial violence. "As we have seen with the Zimmerman acquittal, too often the system fails to hold those who kill black and brown youth accountable," We do not want this case to be a repeat of the injustice done to Trayvon and his family. Now, more than ever, it's important that New Yorkers continue to demand justice for Ramarley Graham and support his family."
"Time and time again our people are faced with these unfortunate events and it's at the hands of those who are sworn to protect us," said Raymond Santana of the Central Park Five. "From Ramarley Graham to Trayvon Martin to Sean Bell, we are always at the receiving end of this injustice. It's time for our people to unify and stand strong and look in the face of injustice and shout 'no more.'"
"Racial profiling in America is unacceptable, uncivil, and inhumane, said Kevin Powell, president of BK Nation. "There is a direct connection between the profiling and death of Trayvon Martin and the profiling and death of Ramarley Graham. I support the family of Ramarley Graham one hundred percent in its efforts to get justice."
The similarities between the two cases are not lost on Graham’s family.
"Please do not let this happen to Ramarley," said Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham, referencing the not guilty verdict in the Zimmerman trial. "Do not let Richard Haste walk free as did Zimmerman. Please continue to help us fight the fight"