ACLU Reverses Championing Pursuit of Zimmerman
The American Civil Liberties Union, stung by the backlash to its initial reaction to the George Zimmerman acquittal, has reversed its position on whether the Department of Justice (DOJ) should continue its post-acquittal pursuit of Zimmerman. The day after the acquittal, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero released a statement that endorsed the furthering of the DOJ’s hunt against Zimmerman, saying:
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.
The statement also advocated additional federal guidance for law enforcement by using race and new legislation to stop racial profiling.
But the focus on civil rights flew in the face of the ACLU’s traditional position on guarding civil rights. In 1993, after the Rodney King incident, the ACLU adopted a policy that stated, “There should be no exception to double jeopardy principles simply because the same offense may be prosecuted by two different sovereigns.”
King had been beaten by L.A. police officers in 1992, and after they were acquitted, the ACLU was riven by a schism between those who believed the officers should be tried for violating civil rights and those who believed that the double jeopardy policy should preclude doing so. At first, the pro-civil rights group won, but a year later those who eschewed pursuing a second trial reversed the policy to ensure there would be no double jeopardy. At the time, the New York Times said the ACLU was “torn by internal disagreement,” and the Boston Globe said the organization was “twisting itself up in knots.”
After Romero’s statement went public and the subsequent backlash, ACLU Washington Office Director Laura Murphy wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday:
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.
SNIP: Yeah, it is.