Jordan Neely’s family and their lawyers recently suggested that Daniel Penny, the 24-year-old Marine veteran who put Neely in a death choke hold, should face more serious charges.
Neely, a 30-year-old black homeless person, was riding the F train in New York on May 1 when Penny, with the help of other subway drivers, put him in a chokehold. Witnesses said Neely had been “shout” about not having food and drink before Penny intervened.
On Thursday, nearly two weeks after Neely’s death, Penny was charged with second-degree manslaughter, which a medical examiner ruled a murder. If found guilty of manslaughter, Penny could face a prison sentence of five to 25 years.
But lawyers for the Neely family believe the current charges are insufficient.
“Is that enough for someone who strangled someone on a train and took his own life?” Lennon Edwards, one of the Neely family’s attorneys, said at Friday’s press conference.
“Justice looks like a murder conviction,” Edwards said.
“We need a full cup of justice here, and we’re asking us to keep going until that happens,” Edwards added.
After the incident, Penny was questioned by police, but was subsequently released days of protests demand accountability and justice.
Edwards said he and Neely’s family spoke to the district attorney prior to Penny’s arraignment, who told them there was “no timeline for an arrest” as evidence was still being collected. However, an indictment could happen “maybe in June,” Edwards said.
“We have told them that there is already enough evidence for an arrest. There is already enough information to begin the process of justice,” Edwards said at the press conference.
Witnesses told police that prior to Penny’s involvement, Neely was behaving erratically, screaming about hunger and fatigue.
“The man got on the subway and started to give a somewhat aggressive speech, he said he was hungry, he was thirsty, he didn’t care, he didn’t care to go to jail, he couldn’t care that he gets a hefty life sentence,” explains Juan Alberto Vazquez, who videotaped the incident, told NBC New York. “That ‘it doesn’t even matter if I died.'”
On May 6, Penny and his lawyers brought a rack claiming that Neely had a “documented history of violent and erratic behavior” and that Penny, along with other passengers, had “acted to protect themselves” after Neely “aggressively threatened” them.
“Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death,” the lawyers said in the statement.
But witnesses told prosecutors that Neely did not attack anyone, CBS News reports.
“No one on that train asked Jordan, ‘What’s going on? How can I help you?’ Instead, he was suffocated to death,” Donte Mills, another lawyer for the Neely family, said at the news conference.
Penny turned himself in Friday and was released after posting bail later that day. NPR reports. In a rackPenny’s lawyers claimed that on the day of the incident, he had “intervened to protect himself and his fellow New Yorkers” and that they are confident he will be “fully cleared of any wrongdoing.”
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office will share evidence with the grand jury, which will be used to determine whether Penny should be charged with manslaughter or other charges, according to NPR. Penny is expected to appear in court in July.
“[Penny] can’t rewrite how the story ends,” Edwards said. “The story ends with his arms wrapped around Jordan’s neck, choking him, and that’s what he has to pay for.”