The Justice Department’s press release yesterday regarding the final rejection of a civil rights charge against George Zimmerman was despicable and unprofessional, political, as everything Holder’s department has done from the beginning, unethical,and an abuse of its power and influence.
Raising this issue adeptly is reader J. Houghton in his Comment of the Day on the post, Pop Ethics Quiz: Welcoming Rev. Talbert Swan, Late Passenger On The Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck. He ends with a question; I’ll return to answer it.
I am curious about the statement by Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta that: “Our decision not to pursue federal charges does not condone the shooting that resulted in the death of Trayvon Martin and is based solely on the high legal standard applicable to these cases.” It seems almost like an unnecessary statement of the obvious, like, yes of course; this is a tragedy; mistakes were made; bad judgment happened; and somebody died needlessly. Of course, we all would hope that such tragedies “do not occur in the future” as the JD press release stated… ever! this is a most wonderful thought.
However, what exactly is it that the Justice Department does “not condone” ? Is it possible that General Gupta is suggesting that the Justice Department does not buy into the basic idea of shooting someone in self-defense if believed necessary to protect ones self, or perhaps she questions the basic idea of being legally allowed to carry a concealed handgun by permit for self-defense? Or is she questioning the wisdom of the Neighborhood Watch program which might encourage citizens to… God forbid… watch too closely the goings on in their neighborhoods? What exactly is it that the Justice Department does “not condone” in this particular case?
Not to say that the claim of “self-defense” is always justified… because it most assuredly is not. Nor am I defending in any way Zimmerman for the events that unfolded with very unfortunate results. But I am wondering about the chill this incredibly long and ultimately fruitless federal investigation might put on the fundamental right of self defense to protect ones self or others who might find themselves in the position of facing a real threat. Are citizens going to possibly face federal prosecution in the future for becoming “too involved” in the security of their own neighborhoods, or for protecting themselves or their neighbors if the unlawful aggressor and righteous defender in a specific incident happen to be of the “wrong” ethnicity or race?
I‘m back. The answer is that the statement is chilling, and intentionally or not, undermines the jury’s verdict, the justice system, the tradition of self defense, and George Zimmerman’s right not to be harassed by extra-legal means by the government that is supposed to protect his rights.
Yes, what is it exactly that the Justice Department doesn’t “condone”? Self defense? Is it claiming that Martin was profiled, despite the fact that there was no evidence of that? “White Hispanics” should never shoot African Americans even when they are trying to beat their brains in?
Holder’s statement, quoted in the release, was just as unprofessional:
“The death of Trayvon Martin was a devastating tragedy. It shook an entire community, drew the attention of millions across the nation, and sparked a painful but necessary dialogue throughout the country. Though a comprehensive investigation found that the high standard for a federal hate crime prosecution cannot be met under the circumstances here, this young man’s premature death necessitates that we continue the dialogue and be unafraid of confronting the issues and tensions his passing brought to the surface. We, as a nation, must take concrete steps to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future.”
While announcing no prosecution, Holder is saying, essentially, in his position of Attorney General, that Zimmerman committed a hate crime, just one that the law doesn’t allow the government to prosecute. How dare he say that? Where’s his evidence? A prosecutor can’t declare a man who has been found innocent guilty: it’s not just unethical, it’s outrageous and an abuse of power. What does “We, as a nation, must take concrete steps to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future” mean, if the basis for the investigation turned up nothing? How are we, as a nation, going to “prevent” perfect storms where an officious wannabe cop foolishly provokes a kid with a chip on his shoulder to get physical and one of them gets killed? Banning guns? Presuming racism? Presuming guilt any time a non-black kills a black man in a fight?
I regard these comments as violating the Rule 3.8 , the Rule of Professional Conduct applying to prosecutors, specifically this provision:
(f) except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor’s action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused and exercise reasonable care to prevent investigators, law enforcement personnel, employees or other persons assisting or associated with the prosecutor in a criminal case from making an extrajudicial statement that the prosecutor would be prohibited from making under Rule 3.6 or this Rule.
There is no legitimate law enforcement purpose to what Holder said, and he intentionally has set out to “heighten public condemnation of the accused.”
The comments of both Holder and his subordinate unjustly continue to accuse Zimmerman while officially exonerating him, based on nothing but innuendo. From the beginning, the government of Barack Obama took sides in this case, with no justification other than group identification, bias and political expediency. The episode’s conclusion was as disgraceful as the episode, with the Attorney General of the United States saying, in essence, to Al Sharpton and the Democratic base, “I’m sorry we couldn’t get this guy, because we all know he’s guilty.” The nations’ top lawyer just set an abysmal example for the nation’s prosecutors.