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'I can't breathe'

Staten Island’s Eric Garner was the “perfect victim” of police violence. So why wasn’t the cop who killed him indicted?

HE WAS A 43-year-old married father of six. His alleged crime: selling "loose," untaxed cigarettes on a Staten Island street corner.

He was tackled by a gaggle of police officers, including one who subdued him for agonizing seconds with a chokehold, a move that the New York Police Department had outlawed because of its propensity for causing severe injury and death. The entire encounter was captured clearly on video. After Eric Garner did indeed perish in the takedown, a medical examiner classified his death a homicide.

Garner's last words were: "I can't breathe!"

Yesterday, a Staten Island grand jury gave us the dull surprise of no indictment for the officer who killed Garner. It raises so many questions.

Given the fact that a high-quality video of this killing did not yield an indictment, will the expected rise in the use of police body cameras (including in Philadelphia) make a difference?

Can a grand-jury process run by prosecutors who work hand-in-glove with the cops on the beat ever produce justice when those officers behave unlawfully?

When will Americans accept that we have two justice systems - one for the powerful, one for the powerless - and when will something be done about it?

One thing is clear: The fallout from the Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., case has led to a lot of hand-wringing by right-wing TV pundits who say that we shouldn't fret about police violence because there is no "perfect victim." In the case of Brown, for some, it's OK to call him a "thug" (since he's not alive to defend his reputation), and his summary execution for shoplifting is apparently justified.

Cleveland's Tamir Rice was a 12-year-old who, in their world, apparently deserved a two-second death penalty because he took that orange thingee off his air gun.

And so on and so forth. But now those pundits have a homicide victim from an illegal maneuver, murdered for the equivalent of a traffic ticket. They have their "perfect victim." What on earth will MSNBC's wretched Joe Scarborough and the rest of them talk about now?