Jordan Neely’s family wants charges against Daniel Penny raised to murder

A roundup of conversations we're having daily on the site. Subscribe to the Reckon Daily for stories centering marginalized communities and speaking to the under-covered issues of the moment.

Jordan Neely’s family wants the charges against Daniel Penny raised to murder, their attorneys said at a press conference following the 24-year-old’s arraignment Friday.

On May 1, Penny, an ex-marine, put Neely into a 15-minute-long chokehold on an F train in Manhattan. At the time, 30-year-old Neely was suffering from mental health issues and experiencing homelessness.

According to media reports, Neely boarded the subway yelling that he was hungry and didn’t care if he was going to die. Neely was clearly in crisis. That’s when Penny took matters into his own hands and physically restrained Neely, putting him in the chokehold. Part of the incident was caught on video.

Officials arrested Penny for second-degree manslaughter after he turned himself in to a police precinct. He was later arraigned and released on $100,000 bail. A grand jury will later decide whether to indict him.

In a press release, his attorneys said that they’re “confident that once all the facts and circumstances surrounding this tragic case are brought to bear. Mr. Penny will be absolved of any wrongdoing.”

If convicted, Penny could face up to 15 years in prison. Attorneys for Neely’s family lambasted the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s decision to charge Penny with manslaughter, explaining that they’d like to see him convicted for murder instead.

“Ask yourself, ‘Is that enough?’ Is that enough for someone who choked somebody out on the train and took their life,” Donte Mills, one of the attorneys said at the press conference as he stood alongside Neely’s father Andre Zachary. “We need a full cup of justice here.”

Experts say that Penny was likely not charged with murder because the evidence that has so far been reported does not show that he acted with an intent to kill Neely.

However, the grand jury may decide to elevate the charge to second-degree murder if they determine that Penny knew that he could’ve killed Neely and acted anyway.

Randy Zelin, a law professor at Cornell Law School, says that he doesn’t expect the case to result in a conviction. Prosecutors will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Penny did not care about whether he would kill Neely and that his actions were not justified.

“Quite frankly, I don’t even think I see a trial,” Zelin said.

It’s not clear to what extent Penny’s military service will be discussed if the case does go to trial. Attorneys for Neely’s family stated that because of his time in the marines, Penny might’ve known how to kill someone with the technique he used the day Neely died, which is taught to recruits during basic training.

Many people around the country feel that Neely’s death was unjustifiable. In the days since his passing, protesters have taken to the streets of New York, with a few jumping onto subway tracks, resulting in the arrests of multiple demonstrators and a photojournalist.

Many were infuriated because Penny was questioned and immediately let go after Neely’s death.

His next court date is July 17.

The Reckon Report.
Sign up to receive the Reckon Report newsletter in your inbox every Tuesday.