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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Eric Holder's shallow fury

 The article below appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and relates to two points I will make later.

Life in Barack Obama's post-racial America certainly isn't turning out as advertised.
And since the president has only a few years left to straighten it (us) all out, he probably should get his chief racism scold, Attorney General Eric "Americans Simply Do Not Talk Enough With Each Other About Race" Holder, back on topic.
On Monday, Holder decried "the tragic, unnecessary shooting death" of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
"Tragic" is certainly correct. As for "unnecessary," a jury of Zimmerman's peers wasn't convinced.
Also on Monday -- and quite a bit less publicly -- Holder's Justice Department began recruiting a national posse of the professionally aggrieved to help come up with some accusation plausible enough to justify a second prosecutorial swipe at the newly acquitted George Zimmerman.
Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the pressure groups that wants Zimmerman charged with, um, whatever, said she participated in a conference call organized by the Justice Department.
Other participants included Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, several federal prosecutors, FBI representatives, as well as people from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union.
"They were calling on us to actively refer anyone who had any information" that might make a civil rights or hate-crime case against Zimmerman, Arnwine told the Orlando Sentinel. "They said they would very aggressively investigate this case."
This wild goose chase is by no means exclusive. Anybody can play. If you've got some dirt on Zimmerman, real or imagined, just email it to sanford.florida@usdoj.gov and they'll get right on it.
Holder was in full cry on Tuesday, too.
In a speech to the NAACP's annual convention, he let fly this nugget of fool's gold: "Separate and apart from the case that has drawn the nation's attention, it's time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods."
The senseless law Holder had in mind is Florida's Stand Your Ground statute, which holds that a law-abiding person who believes himself to be threatened with death or great bodily harm need not retreat from the perceived danger before acting to defend himself with deadly force.
That law had no bearing whatsoever on Zimmerman's trial, but that's OK. In his haste to change the subject from the call for another doomed prosecution of Zimmerman to something that might make the Obama administration look busy enough to pacify the NAACP, Holder is unwittingly providing a teachable moment for a country that talks way too much about race and not nearly enough about law.
First of all, self-defense doesn't sow conflict in neighborhoods. It's conflict, or the expectation of it, that creates the necessity of self-defense. And Florida's clarification of what constitutes self-defense is hardly senseless.
In fact, Florida's law is more sensible than Ohio's.
In Ohio, a person facing an imminent threat is obligated to attempt to escape from a mortal threat before using deadly force. If an Ohioan uses deadly force to defend himself or another innocent and pleads self-defense, he'll have to show that he discharged his "duty to retreat" before discharging his weapon.
The only circumstances in which the duty to retreat does not apply are in the case of an invasion of his home while he is inside or his vehicle while he is occupying it.
In Florida, a person who believes he faces a threat of imminent death or great bodily harm may use deadly force to defend himself no matter where he is. All that means is that if and when a jury gets the case, it will not have to go through the exercise of second-guessing whether escape might have been possible or preferable. It will need to assess only the question of whether, faced with the same circumstances, any reasonable person would have acted to avert death or serious harm.
Unless, of course, it's a case the media and, to its shame, the Justice Department choose to politicize and racialize. Then, a very different set of rules apply, as George Zimmerman, fired Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee and fired prosecution whistleblower Ben Kruidbos can all attest. 

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