New York’s new special prosecutor for police-involved deaths—the first of his kind in the country—has his first case.
Activists and civil-rights leaders in New York had lobbied for the creation of the special role after the officers involved in the death of 43-year-old grandfather Eric Garner were cleared of wrongdoing. They argued that there was a conflict of interest when district attorney’s offices, which often work with police departments, investigate such deaths. Schneiderman was selected for the job last month.
Turner died in her cell last Monday while awaiting arraignment on a shoplifting charge in Mount Vernon, a New York City suburb. A mother of eight, she was allegedly caught stealing from a wholesale food store, according to Lohud, a local newspaper.
The day after Turner was arrested and jailed, she complained of feeling ill and was transported to a local hospital and treated for high blood pressure. Afterward, Turner, who had undergone weight-loss surgery last year, was returned to jail. A new report from Lohud says that Turner vomited eight hours before her death. The police, according to the Lohud, did not appear to seek medical care for Turner at that time.
Turner’s autopsy report was found to be inconclusive, and the Westchester County District Attorney’s office is waiting for a toxicology report, according to a local radio station.
“[The police] have a special obligation take care of [Turner],” said Karen Smith, a former New York acting civil supreme court judge, told Fusion last week. “Depending on what the police knew about her medical condition, it would be negligent on their part not to look after her.”
Collier Meyerson is a reporter at Fusion with a focus on race and politics. She lives in Brooklyn.