Jordan Neely is placed in a choke hold by a Daniel Penny on a subway train in New York City, May 1, 2023. (Juan Alberto Vazquez/Reuters)
Dear Commons Community,
Manhattan prosecutors announced yesterday they would bring a manslaughter charge against Daniel Penny, 24, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, in the May 1 death of 30-year-old Jordan Neely. Penny kept a chokehold around the neck of Neely, a fellow passenger on a New York City subway, leading to Neely’s death. Penny is expected to turn himself in to authorities today on a manslaughter charge that could send him to prison for 15 years.
Neely’s death, captured on video by a freelance journalist, has raised an uproar over many issues, including how those with mental illness are treated by the transit system and the city, as well as crime and vigilantism.
Penny’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment after the prosecutors made their announcement. They have previously said Penny acted in self-defense.
According to an onlooker, Neely, who is Black, had been screaming and begging for money aboard the train, but had not gotten physical with anyone.
Penny, who is white, was questioned by police in the aftermath, but was released without charges.
Friends of Neely said the former subway performer had been dealing with homelessness and mental illness in recent years. He had several arrests to his name, including a 2021 assault of a 67-year-old woman leaving a subway station.
A second-degree manslaughter charge in New York will require the jury to find that a person has engaged in reckless conduct that creates an unjustifiable risk of death, and then consciously disregards that risk.
The law also requires that conduct to be a gross deviation from how a reasonable person would act in a similar situation.
This will be a case of manslaughter versus self-defense reminiscent of the 1984 Bernhard Goetz Case when Goetz shot four teenagers who he feared were going to rob him on a NYC subway train. Goetz was acquitted on attempted murder, fined $5,000, and sentenced to six months in prison for illegal weapons possession and community service.