Update below

Gov. Cuomo has conceded to the demands of families of people killed by the police and issued an executive order appointing Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to serve as a special prosecutor on police-killing cases.

"A criminal justice system doesn't work without trust," Cuomo announced. "We will be the first state in the country to acknowledge the problem and say we're going to create an independent prosecutor who does not have that kind of connection with the organized police departments."

Relatives of slain New Yorkers, including Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham, and Sean Bell, and activists have been pushing for a special prosecutor since last winter, when a grand jury elected not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo for fatally choking Eric Garner in Staten Island. Legal experts at the time said the grand jury was doing exactly what then Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan's staff wanted it to do.

“The special prosecutor will kick in for cases where a law enforcement officer in the conduct of their duty kills an unarmed person, or a person where there is a significant question if the person was armed and dangerous,” Cuomo said.

The order, as the explanation indicates, does not automatically appoint Schneiderman whenever someone is killed by a cop. It is good for a year and could be renewed. Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, thanked the governor for the measure, and activists praised it, but said it needs to be made permanent. Cuomo's push to get it signed into law floundered in the legislature last month.

Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson, rank-and-file police union head Pat Lynch, and state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan have already come out against the measure.

"I actually have pretty strong faith in the system as it exists," Flanagan told Capital New York, about summing up the criticism.

The Staten Island and Queens district attorney's offices declined to comment, and the Brooklyn office, which has opposed the call in the past, did not immediately have a comment. The Manhattan DA's Office didn't immediately respond, either.

An unnamed Governor's Office official told Newsday one or more county district attorney has already threatened to sue over the order.

The text of the full order is as follows:


WHEREAS, the Constitution of the State of New York obliges the Governor to take care that the laws of New York are faithfully executed; and

WHEREAS, I have solemnly sworn, pursuant to Article 13, Section 1 of the Constitution, to support the Constitution and faithfully discharge the duties of the office of Governor; and

WHEREAS, there have been recent incidents involving the deaths of unarmed civilians that have challenged the public's confidence and trust in our system of criminal justice; and

WHEREAS, public concerns have been raised that such incidents cannot be prosecuted at the local level without conflict or bias, or the public perception of conflict or bias; and

WHEREAS, it is necessary to ensure that a full, reasoned, and independent investigation and prosecution of any such incident is conducted without conflict or bias, or the perception of conflict or bias; and

WHEREAS, the foregoing compels me to conclude that my constitutional obligations provide that in cases where an issue of a real or perceived conflict of interest exists, and to ensure full confidence in our system of criminal justice, a special prosecutor should be appointed with respect to such incidents. Such appointment of a special prosecutor will supersede in all ways the authority and jurisdiction of a county district attorney to manage, interpret, prosecute or inquire about such incidents; and

NOW, THEREFORE, I, ANDREW M. CUOMO, Governor of the State of New York, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and Laws of the State of New York, and particularly by subdivision 2 of section 63 of the Executive Law, hereby require the Attorney General (hereinafter, the "special prosecutor") to investigate, and if warranted, prosecute certain matters involving the death of an unarmed civilian, whether in custody or not, caused by a law enforcement officer, as listed in subdivision 34 of section 1.20 of the Criminal Procedure Law. The special prosecutor may also investigate and prosecute in such instances where, in his opinion, there is a significant question as to whether the civilian was armed and dangerous at the time of his or her death;

FURTHER, for any matter covered herein, the special prosecutor shall have the powers and duties specified in subdivisions 2 and 8 of section 63 of the Executive Law for purposes of this Order, and shall possess and exercise all the prosecutorial powers necessary to investigate, and if warranted, prosecute the incident. The special prosecutor’s jurisdiction will displace and supersede the jurisdiction of the county district attorney where the incident occurred; and such county district attorney shall have only the powers and duties designated to him or her by the special prosecutor as specified in subdivision 2 of section 63 of the Executive Law;

FURTHER, for any matter covered herein, the special prosecutor shall conduct a full, reasoned, and independent investigation including, but not limited to, (i) gathering and analyzing evidence, (ii) conducting witness interviews, and (iii) reviewing investigative reports, scientific reports, and audio and video recordings;

FURTHER, for any matter covered herein, the special prosecutor shall, (i) attend in person, a term or terms of the County or Supreme Court to be held in and for the County of such appropriate jurisdiction consistent with this Order, (ii) appear in person before any grand jury drawn for any term(s) of said court, for the purpose of conducting any and all proceedings, examinations, and inquiries, and (iii) bring any and all criminal actions and proceedings which may be had or taken before said grand jury and other grand juries concerning or relating to any and all alleged unlawful acts as described by this Order;

FURTHER, for any matter covered herein, the special prosecutor will provide to me, or my designee, a report on all cases where, (i) the special prosecutor declines to present evidence to a grand jury regarding the death of a civilian as described in this Order, whether in custody or not, allegedly caused by a law enforcement officer, or (ii) the grand jury declines to return an indictment on any charges. The report will include, to the extent possible and lawful, an explanation of that outcome and any recommendations for systemic reform arising from the investigation.

This Executive Order shall continue until modified, suspended or terminated by the Governor.

Update 10 pm:

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson provided this statement through a spokeswoman: “We will work closely with the attorney general and will assist, when needed, to ensure that equal justice and fairness are applied in Brooklyn.”