DOJ Official: Black Panther Decision a “Travesty of Justice”

This week Congress held hearings on the controversial decision by the Obama Administration to drop charges against Black Panther members for voter intimidation in Philadelphia in 2008. I have previously criticized the decision since I fail to see how these pictures did not show intimidation and the Obama Administration has created a dangerous precedent (if not an invitation) for other groups to engage in the same practices at polling places. In the hearing, Christopher Coates, former voting chief for the department’s Civil Rights Division, called the decision a “travesty of justice” and deepened the controversy over the policies and practices in that division.

Coates testimony has long been resisted by the Administration, particularly after former Justice official J. Christian Adams came out in July with a stinging rebuke of the decision. Adams claimed that the Administration showed open hostility to cases where victims were white and defendants were black.

Coates seemed to back up such claims and said that the Obama Administration abandoned a “race-neutral” approach to enforcing the Voting Rights Act.

What was strange in this case is that the Justice Department had already secured a default victory but suddenly moved to dismiss the charges. In return, the Black Panthers reportedly agreed to not carry “weapon[s]” near a polling place until 2012 – a rather bizarre agreement.

I am a bit surprised by the relatively little media coverage given the testimony. One can disagree with the testimony, but it clearly raises substantial concerns and policy questions. This is clearly not a huge case and I would not think that it would normally generate a major sanction. Indeed, it was overblown when it occurred by conservative sites. Nevertheless, it was worthy of prosecution and the dismissal of the action magnified the controversy over the future standard for intimidation cases.

My concern remains the standard created for future cases. I would think that the decision would embolden other groups from skinheads to extreme religious groups in “policing” polling places. I can understand if this was viewed as simply a minor case, but it would seem to have warranted some formal sanction, even a small one.

In the very least, the Administration needs to give a more substantial account of the decision to drop the case. With Coates’ testimony, this controversy will only grow — particularly with the possible Republican takeover of the House.

Source: LA Times

Jonathan Turley

49 thoughts on “DOJ Official: Black Panther Decision a “Travesty of Justice””

  1. I think this November I am going down to DC with a confederate flag and a white hood and some baseball bats to make sure no white folk are intimidated at the polls.

    I wonder how long I would last before I was arrested, I doubt the DOJ would let me off with a request to not carry my bats until 2014.

    What should have happened is that a bunch of people should have run those 2 thugs off and I would expect to have the living bejesus beaten out of me if I did the above.

  2. ishobo
    1, September 27, 2010 at 10:58 pm
    @tomdarch

    It will be nice in a couple of years, when all of the hard work that Obama and the Democrats are trying to do now to repair the economy and the nation.

    I think you are confused or delusional.

    =========================================================

    … or right

  3. @tomdarch

    It will be nice in a couple of years, when all of the hard work that Obama and the Democrats are trying to do now to repair the economy and the nation.

    I think you are confused or delusional.

  4. tomdarch

    Mr. Reagan’s folowers were indeed mostly white – still may be for all I know. Nancy Reagan rejoiced in all the “beautiful white faces” she saw in the crowd at one of their functions.

    Shirley Jackson Lee’s congressional hearing on voter’s who were prevented from voting was a real eye opener.

    Who is more intimidated at polling stations, whites or minorities? Take a guess.

  5. Bdaman,

    Stay safe … try to stay dry … for future reference, kids love freeze-dried strawberry slices (good treat to keep in your emergency bag)

  6. “I think Bdaman gets side tracked a little to much.”

    you know me all to well 😉

    I hate doing drive bye’s but been so busy from being distracted I mean side tracked I haven’t had the time to spend here with you as of late.

    I’m sorry, where were we? Oh yea, forgot, surfs up.
    Maybe it’s the water in my ear or is dat da eeerrr from my lungs.

    If your a resident of the SE U.S. especially Florida we have a tough 7-10 days as multiple tropical systems are forecast.
    Possible T.S. Nicole 24-36 hours, movement NE across Western Cuba and up the state. GFS then pulls an area North from near Costa Rica and Nicaragua and develops another system (Otto) South of the Yucatan Pass by next Monday then up the West Coast of Florida. You should stock provisions. Better to have it and not need it then to need it and not have it. Plus you can always return what you don’t use if you keep your receipt. By a generator, take it back in 30 days in an un opened box.

    CMC moves Nicole ? up the state and exit Jax.Fla. and continues up the eastern seaboard. Then brings two systems one from the East and the other similar to the GFS forecast above.

    You should stock provisions. Better to have it and not need it then to need it and not have it. Plus you can always return what you don’t use if you keep your receipt. By a generator, take it back in 30 days in an un opened box.

    Sorry already said that

  7. I don’t think I know enough about what those two morons did in front of that poling place and I know that I don’t know much about the federal statute that covers this activity. It’s entirely possible that criminal charges should have been pursued. I really don’t know.

    Nonetheless, for Prof. Turley to reference the testimony of Mr. Coates, without explaining the obvious partisan political aspect of his recent actions, or to explain that this is a “Sherrod-esque” Fox/Breitbart piece of hype is an important failing.

    We’re back to the Reagan years. Ronbo (or, actually, his speech writers) loved to explain political issues using isolated anecdotes that reinforced unfounded stereotypes. These carefully chosen (or sometimes carefully fabricated) anecdotes often flew in the face of the big-picture reality. A classic was the (possibly true) story of one woman from the (largely “black”) South Side of Chicago who skillfully defrauded the welfare system. Despite being one isolated instance, Reagan would use the story repeatedly to criticize the public safety net. This single instance was meant to condemn the welfare system as a whole, and to associate welfare with “black” Americans, thus making it undesirable among Regan’s voters who were almost exclusively “white”. (Specifically, 98% of the people who voted for Regan in 1980 were “white”.) In reality, the majority of people receiving welfare at the time were “white”, but you would never know that listening to Reagan.

    So, today, we have Fox, Breitbart, et al. plucking isolated anecdotes out to play on the biases and stereotypes of their target market in order to get righter-wing Republicans elected and further the interests of their corporate financiers. This isolated “New Black Panter” story stands in complete contrast to the many, many accounts of anti-minority/anti-Democratic voter manipulation and intimidation from around the country. It’s fantastic for these people because it’s based on visual imagery of “angry, armed, violent black men” – one of the deepest, most central and visceral of the racist stereotypes that have pervaded American culture for literally centuries.

    Bah. It will be nice in a couple of years, when all of the hard work that Obama and the Democrats are trying to do now to repair the economy and the nation. It’s too bad the hysterical, “low information” voters will have put a bunch of irresponsible, disingenuous Republicans in power so they can claim the credit for it. (and create a new cycle of crisis for them to feed off of…)

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