Bernard S. Meyer, a former judge of the New York State Court of Appeals who led an investigation in 1975 into the state’s handling of crimes arising from the Attica prison revolt four years earlier, died on Saturday in Valley Stream, N.Y. He was 89.
The cause was heart failure, said his daughter Patricia Meyer.
A Democrat, Judge Meyer served on the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, from 1979 until his retirement in 1986. He was previously a justice of the New York State Supreme Court, on which he served from 1958 to 1972. At his death, Judge Meyer was a senior partner in the Long Island law firm of Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, based in Mineola.
In April 1975, Gov. Hugh L. Carey and Louis J. Lefkowitz, the state attorney general, appointed Judge Meyer special deputy attorney general in charge of the Attica inquiry. His principal task was to evaluate a charge that crimes alleged to have been committed by law enforcement officers during the siege were later covered up by the state.
On Sept. 9, 1971, more than a thousand inmates rioted at the Attica State Correctional Facility in western New York, taking hostages. A guard and three inmates were killed during the siege. On Sept. 13, heavily armed state troopers, sheriff’s deputies and prison guards stormed the prison. Ten prison employees and 29 inmates died in the resulting battle, and more than 80 people were wounded.
Indictments were initially returned against 62 inmates; no law enforcement officers were indicted in the course of the state’s three-year investigation and prosecution.
In December 1975, after an eight-month inquiry, Judge Meyer released the first volume of his findings, a 570-page document that came to be known as the Meyer Report. Though the report found that the state had made ”serious errors in judgment” in its handling of the Attica affair, it ultimately concluded that there had been ”no intentional cover-up” by the prosecution.
Bernard Stern Meyer was born in Baltimore on June 7, 1916. He earned an undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1936 and a law degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, two years later. Early in his career, Mr. Meyer worked in the office of general counsel for the United States Treasury Department; during World War II, he served with the Navy in the Pacific. From 1957 to 1958, he was the Democratic Party chairman of Nassau County, on Long Island.
Judge Meyer’s first marriage, to the former Elaine Strass, ended in divorce. His second wife, the former Edythe B. Gilbert, died in 1989. Besides his daughter Patricia, Judge Meyer’s survivors include his third wife, the former Hortense Fox Handel; another daughter, Gail LaPlante of Seaforth, Ontario; a son, Lee Handel, of Cleveland; and five grandchildren. His daughter Susan Meyer died in 1961.