ACLU.2.0: ACLU Shifts Position On Civil Rights Action Against Zimmerman

American_Civil_Liberties_Union_logoZimmermanx-inset-communityThe American Civil Liberties Union seems a bit less unified in the aftermath of the Zimmerman acquittal. I remain a huge admirer of the ACLU and its inspiring legacy in fighting for civil liberties in America. I also have great respect for ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero. However, the divisions evident on this civil liberties blog appears equally represented in that civil liberties institution. To the surprise of many, including myself, Romero sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder that seemed to clearly invite a civil rights or hate crime prosecution of George Zimmerman. The ACLU however has long taken the view that such prosecutions violate the double jeopardy clause of the Constitution. When the federal government does not like the outcome of a high-profile case, it can use the very same facts to bring another prosecution under a different crime. After sending the letter, however, the ACLU staff appear to have objected and sent out a conflicting position that such successive prosecutions are violative of constitutional principles.

As noted in the article below, the ACLU previously faced the same division and retraction in the aftermath of the Rodney King case — first supporting a federal prosecution and then denouncing it.

In his letter to Holder, Romero wrote:

“Last night’s verdict casts serious doubt on whether the legal system truly provides equal protection of the laws to everyone regardless of race or ethnicity. This case reminds us that it is imperative that the Department of Justice thoroughly examine whether the Martin shooting was a federal civil rights violation or hate crime.”

That would seem to clearly invite not just an investigation but possible prosecution under civil rights or hate crime laws. Indeed, the ACLU said such action was “imperative.”

Various civil libertarians cried foul and reminded the ACLU of its policy that “There should be no exception to double jeopardy principles simply because the same offense may be prosecuted by two different sovereigns.”

It was then that the powerful Washington DC office stepped in with a letter of its own to Holder stating that

“We are writing to clearly state the ACLU’s position on whether or not the Department of Justice (DOJ) should consider bringing federal civil rights or hate crimes charges as a result of the state court acquittal in the George Zimmerman case. The ACLU believes the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Constitution protects someone from being prosecuted in another court for charges arising from the same transaction. A jury found Zimmerman not guilty, and that should be the end of the criminal case.”

One could easily understand why Holder would be a tad confused (after all, he just went through mental gymnastics to excuse clear perjury by the National Intelligence Director James Clapper as a mere harmless lie under oath before the United States Congress. That had to leave some lasting cognitive damage). If the ACLU is opposed to such prosecutions, it is harm to understand the “imperative” described in Romero’s letter.

I have previously stated that I do not believe that there is a case for such a civil rights or hate crime prosecution. Indeed, Obama and Holder appear to know that when you read their statements warning citizens of the high burden in such cases. However, these prosecutions have also raised serious questions of double jeopardy despite the erosion of that protection by the federal courts. In this case, many people are outraged by the verdict and want the federal government to take a crack at Zimmerman. However such a prosecution would not only likely fail but it would be viewed as the Administration simply disagreeing with the results of a trial and jury verdict.

I have said from the first day of the indictment that Angela Corey had over-charged the case and I believe that the case might have come out differently had she charged it as a manslaughter. However, the record in the case does not come close to the record for past civil rights prosecutions. People want a do-over. The one thing that many on the different sides agree on is that Corey’s team did a poor job in the case. Yet, too often these federal prosecutions are used to “take another bite at the apple” after a high-profile and unpopular defeat.

I believe that the original letter of Romero was a mistake and contradicts the long commitment of the ACLU to the protection of citizens from successive prosecutions following acquittal. Former ACLU board member Michael Meyers joined many in criticizing Romero:

“The ACLU is out of line; a civil liberties organization is concerned with the accused getting a fair trial, which includes the right of effective counsel, due process and protection against double jeopardy. No government, much less an angry community, is entitled to a verdict to their liking . . . The ACLU is not the NAACP; the ACLU is the guardian of individual liberty, not a victims’ rights or racial grievance group.”

What do you think?

Source: Politico

99 thoughts on “ACLU.2.0: ACLU Shifts Position On Civil Rights Action Against Zimmerman”

  1. we don’t know what happened that night, at least a punch in the face, a head banged to the ground, but no camera, no witnesses at the time of the shooting, no proof either way beyond any doubt. Bottom line, without proof, everyone walks. It is horribly sad for Martin’s family (I feel sad) (not fair!!!) but, there was no proof of anything that was sure enough beyond a reasonable doubt. It is very possible that Zimmerman did fear for his life.

    After the fighting began, both men had the opportunity to access the gun, technically, the weapon was available to either once it was identified as being present.

    We don’t know anything but two men are fighting and there is one man with a gun. The man with the gun receives injuries and uses the gun to protect himself. Did he have the right to protect himself.

    Martin may have feared for his life too, but had the tables been turned the other way and Zimmerman had been shot, Martin would have been able to plead self defense. He, however, had no bruises, bumps or indications of struggle like Zimmermann. So it might have been harder to prove.

    All the rest of this dialog is just emotion. I understand it, but it should lead to some good and people should agree that the proof just wasn’t there.

    I agree, lets start talking about how we can stop the fear between white and black people…… does still exist but is hidden. We need to work on it America!! We are all One Big Beautiful Group!!!!!! Peg

    1. peggy laffan
      “All the rest of this dialog is just emotion. I understand it, but it should lead to some good and people should agree that the proof just wasn’t there. ”

      Here, Here. I would add “and reasonable people should agree”

  2. The NAACP’s website was also misrepresented. It asked for your opinion on whether it should file, made no mention that you were signing a petition, and then when you submitted, it said you signed the petition. I, for one, left the opinion that it should not proceed (for many of the arguments posted here) and the NAACP has left no way for me to remove my name from the petition it mislead me to sign.

    Surely I’m not the only one. How many of those “signatures” were from people who voiced against it?

  3. Hey I want my 15 minutes of fame off you. I want a law professor to see if he can withstand public scrtuiny on the law and possible corruption., like his cohorts.Waddaya say. I’ll pay for a press conference. Let me know. We’ll discuss the forgotten Cook County void indictments as I continue to post judges being sued on Twitter.

  4. Joy, David, bigfatmike, et al

    There is research stating that ‘85% of trial by jury cases are won and done at the jury selection’ (please read:

    What does this mean? Most Jurors are not deciding cases based upon the evidence, but upon the demographic(s) of the victim, witnesses, attorneys for both sides, and/or defendant. Most Jurors are also deciding cases based upon their prejudices/biases toward either the situation and/or the invidividuals involved.

    Look at the OJ case: OJ was not guilty of murder by a jury in the criminal case. Did you know that 9 of 12 juror(s) were black. 10 of 12 were women.

    However, in the OJ civil case, 10 of 12 jurors were white. OJ was found guilty in the civil case.

    Here is the OJ info:

    There is so much more research on how the demographics of the person(s) involved in the case and the jurors, not evidence, has played a significant role in determining the outcome of a case (The legal experts know this… I can’t list all of the links due to JT’s website rules, but I am sure you know where to start.

  5. “irrelevent public comment. Which begs the question, who is really the racist(s)?”

    Isn’t an honest and open discussion of race something that many, from all walks of life, have been calling for? Haven’t many responsible leaders been suggesting, for the better part of a decade, that the entire nation would benefit from a thoughtful discussion of race?

    What could possibly be irrelevant about true statements regarding what it is like to grow up as a minority male.

    To understand racism in the US don’t we need to understand that experience, as well as others, in regard to racism?

    Isn’t a valid description of the reality faced by minority males a vital contribution to understanding race relations in the US today.

    Even if the remarks are racist, which I dispute, how does that in any way mitigate the numerous racist acts and remarks from many directions that have been made by so many in regard to this and other recent situations.

  6. Our Dear President added fuel to this absurd fire by making irrelevent public comment. Which begs the question, who is really the racist(s)?

  7. Any new prosecution would be rightly seen as a vendetta.
    The ACLU’s refusal to consider the discrimination faced by adult adoptees in 44 states exposes it’s members’ first loyalty anyway, their own pocketbooks. Civil liberties yes, civil rights no – if they cut into their income streams.
    What a pathetic joke of an organization.

  8. Why . . . it sounds like the good preacher is being critical of the media for ginning up racism and how it can bias a case! That sounds so familiar. I wonder where I’ve heard that before? I guess when I said it, it wasn’t valid because I’m a white guy. Or maybe it was because I pointed out that media bias can be steered in any direction. Or maybe it was because I pointed out that even watchful and aware people can be sucked in by media machination. Or maybe some just wanted to kill the messenger instead of listening to the message about media coverage influence.

    “And immediately there fell from his eyes as it were scales, and he received his sight;” – Acts 9:18

    “Jesus wept.” – John 11:35

    Just to stay with the theme . . .

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