Why Prosecutors Waited Before They Charged Daniel Penny


Explore Our Galleries

A man stands in front of the Djingareyber mosque on February 4, 2016 in Timbuktu, central Mali. 
Mali's fabled city of Timbuktu on February 4 celebrated the recovery of its historic mausoleums, destroyed during an Islamist takeover of northern Mali in 2012 and rebuilt thanks to UN cultural agency UNESCO.
African Peoples Before Captivity
Shackles from Slave Ship Henrietta Marie
Kidnapped: The Middle Passage
Enslaved family picking cotton
Nearly Three Centuries Of Enslavement
Image of the first black members of Congress
Reconstruction: A Brief Glimpse of Freedom
The Lynching of Laura Nelson_May_1911 200x200
One Hundred Years of Jim Crow
Civil Rights protest in Alabama
I Am Somebody! The Struggle for Justice
Black Lives Matter movement
NOW: Free At Last?
#15-Beitler photo best TF reduced size
Memorial to the Victims of Lynching
hands raised black background
The Freedom-Lovers’ Roll Call Wall
Frozen custard in Milwaukee's Bronzeville
Special Exhibits
Dr. James Cameron
Portraiture of Resistance

Breaking News!

Today's news and culture by Black and other reporters in the Black and mainstream media.

Ways to Support ABHM?

Maria Cramer, The New York Times

After the ruling that Jordan Neely’s death on a subway train was a homicide, the Manhattan district attorney’s office faced several choices over how to charge his killer.

Daniel Penny, Neely’s murderer, being led by police from court (Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images)

The killing of a 30-year-old homeless Black man by a white rider on a New York City subway car has prompted intense debate over the response by the police and prosecutors.

Ten days after the May 1 killing, Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, filed a felony complaint of second-degree manslaughter against Daniel Penny, the 24-year-old ex-Marine who choked Jordan Neely to death on the F train in a killing that was captured on a four-minute video.

Questions remain about why prosecutors waited and whether public outrage might have affected their choices.

“All of that public scrutiny on the one hand is a motivation for acting quickly, but on the other hand, it raises the stakes of being very thorough,” said Brandon del Pozo, a former New York City police commander, who is now a researcher at Brown University.

“Whatever happens will be very highly scrutinized,” he said.


Mr. Penny was questioned by the police and released on the day Mr. Neely died, a decision that drew condemnation from many political leaders on the left and protesters.

He could have been arrested that night if the police found probable cause to bring assault or even homicide charges, legal specialists said.

Witnesses said that Mr. Neely was behaving in a “hostile and erratic manner,” according to the police. Juan Alberto Vazquez, a journalist who filmed the choking, said that after Mr. Neely boarded the F train at the Second Avenue station, he began yelling that he was thirsty, hungry and “ready to die.” Prosecutors said Mr. Neely was “making threats and scaring passengers” when Mr. Penny came up from behind and placed him in a chokehold.

The police arrived within six minutes of a 911 call, but several witnesses, including Mr. Vazquez, had left before they arrived. The medical examiner’s office did not rule on a cause of death until two days later. Mr. Penny was not considered a flight risk or a danger to the public.

Read more about the outcome of this case in the original article.

Read about Trayvon Martin’s case and how systemic racism affected it here.

Read more Breaking News here.

Comments Are Welcome

Note: We moderate submissions in order to create a space for meaningful dialogue, a space where museum visitors – adults and youth –– can exchange informed, thoughtful, and relevant comments that add value to our exhibits.

Racial slurs, personal attacks, obscenity, profanity, and SHOUTING do not meet the above standard. Such comments are posted in the exhibit Hateful Speech. Commercial promotions, impersonations, and incoherent comments likewise fail to meet our goals, so will not be posted. Submissions longer than 120 words will be shortened.

See our full Comments Policy here.

Leave a Comment