New York district attorney confirms that Daniel Penny will be tried for the manslaughter of Jordan Neely

Jordan Neely
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On 11 May, a spokesperson confirmed that New York prosecutors will charge US marine Daniel Penny with manslaughter. Freelance journalist Juan Alberto Vazquez filmed Penny using a chokehold on Jordan Neely – a homeless Black man. The incident took place on a New York subway train on 1 May.

Vazquez told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that Neely was shouting at other passengers, saying he didn’t have anything to eat or drink. Penny approached and put him in a headlock, which lasted several minutes. During that time, Neely tried and was unable to free himself, before he lost consciousness.

When they eventually arrived, police pronounced him dead at the scene. New York City’s medical examiner said that Neely was killed by “compression” of the neck, and ruled the death a homicide.

A spokesperson for Manhattan district attorney (DA) Alvin Bragg told AFP:

We can confirm that Daniel Penny will be arrested on a charge of manslaughter in the second degree.

Jordan Neely: public outcry

Neely’s death – and the publication of the footage – sparked widespread outrage. Protesters decried Neely’s death as an example of white “vigilanteism”. The heavy-handed police response to subsequent demonstrations was a marked contrast to the fact that the NYD let Penny walk at first:

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Some of the protests even spilled onto the subway tracks themselves – bearing marked similarity to a 1987 protest against the lynching of Michael Griffith:

Commenters also highlighted the racism inherent in the fact that Penny, a white man, killed a Black man – whilst a subway train watched on:

City council speaker Adrienne Adams said in a statement that:

The initial response by our legal system to this killing is disturbing and puts on display for the world the double standards that Black people and other people of color continue to face.

‘Poverty should not be a death sentence’

Friends told local media that Neely was homeless and had a history of mental illness. Dave Giffen, of the Coalition for the Homeless, said Neely’s death was evidence of the city’s:

callous indifference to the lives of those who are homeless and psychiatrically unwell.

Demonstrators also highlighted the fact that Neely’s life was devalued specifically because he was poor and homeless. Some carried banners reading “Poverty should not be a death sentence”:

Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, of think tank African American Policy Forum, stated that Neely’s death was not a fitting punishment for the crimes of being Black and homeless:


Those who tried to justify Penny’s actions said that the people in the train car were fearful of Neely. However, the onlookers’ descriptions of the scene seemed to tell a different story:

They described Penny as possessing a “calmness” that had an “eerie” quality. Penny, to them, “seemed to know what he was doing”.

Fear is not a justification. It is an excuse. Here, fear was the excuse for a carriage full of people to watch on as one man ‘calmly’ choked another. That fear was fed by the fact that Neely was visibly homeless, visibly mentally ill, and visibly Black. As Crenshaw acutely put it, none of those facts are crimes, and none warranted the loss of a life.

Additional reporting via Agence France-Presse

Featured image via Youtube/Democracy Now

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