I posted the following a few minutes ago on Facebook, but figure I may as well post it here, too.
A quick note on terminology:
I suspect that FB feeds will fill up with folks commenting on the lack of indictment in the death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD. I can’t presume to judge the case — I don’t have the evidence. However, I’ve already noticed a couple of folks claiming that the coroner’s ruling that Mr. Garner died by homicide should be sufficient grounds for indictment. This implies a misunderstanding of terminology.
Homicide is merely a term for one person killing another. It is not necessarily a crime per se, and in fact is legal under certain circumstances (self-defense, some cases of the “castle doctrine”, a soldier acting under lawful orders, legal executions, a guard shooting an escaping prisoner in some jurisdictions, and certain police actions). While these are in fact homicide, they fall under the heading of “justifiable homicide,” and the killer is legally blameless.
So Mr. Garner’s death was certainly a homicide. It may have also been unlawful, and the grand jury could have been wrong — again, I don’t know. But the first does not necessitate the other. Don’t let that term throw you off track.