In a previous post on the Zimmerman case, I criticized the ACLU for abandoning its longstanding opposition on double jeopardy grounds to concurrent state and federal prosecutions for the same behavior. I stand by that criticism, and note that it’s just one of many examples of the ACLU privileging left-wing concerns over traditional civil libertarian principles, as I documented in this article and a chapter of my book You Can’t Say That!
I got my history a bit wrong, though, as I thought the ACLU had argued in favor of a federal prosecution in the Rodney King case after the officers charged with beating him were acquitted in state court. Wendy Kaminer writes to correct me:
I share concern about ACLU’s call for a federal prosecution of Zimmerman in violation of its own policy – or at least the policy in place a few years ago (although I’m hardly surprised by it.) But I offer a small correction to the account of its actions re the Rodney King trial: ACLU didn’t abandon its stance on double jeopardy in the King case; the board suspended the double jeopardy policy in order to consider adopting an exception to it and then voting against doing so after impassioned debate.
This is rather troubling news. Only twenty or so years ago, the ACLU adhered to its civil libertarian principles and refused to make an exception even given the relatively egregious facts of the King trial. Yet now, with no reason to think there was anything untoward about the state prosecution of Zimmerman (beyond the prosecutorial misconduct I noted in my previous post, and the fact that no murder prosecution would have been brought to begin with but for intense political pressure reaching all the way to the White House), the ACLU seems to have casually abandoned its longstanding principles.
UPDATE: Refreshing if troubling honesty about the Zimmerman case from a law professor who was hoping for a conviction [see the comments] who, ironically, is a criminal defense lawyer: “I am disappointed by the jury’s verdict and hoped that despite the lousy job the DA’s office did during the trial, they’d find something to hang a conviction on. This certainly wouldn’t be the first time that someone is found guilty with something less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and I admit that such a result would not have bothered me.” I suspect that there are a lot people who don’t think that the prosecutors proved their case, but wanted Zimmerman to fry anyway, because the case became a symbol of racial injustice regardless of whether the facts turned out to fit the original narrative. While is some sense understandable, in a greater sense it’s absolutely appalling, the sort of reasoning that would justify all sorts of miscarriages of justice, including some of the abuses of the Jim Crow South (who cares if we caught the right person? We know the guy we did catch is no good, and he’ll serve just as well to teach those so and sos a lesson!), in the name of a purported greater good.
And speaking of which, the false “Zimmerman called the police to report a suspicious seven year old” meme, which I debunked in my previous post, continues to circulate, most recently in the New Republic, which as of this writing has not corrected the article despite being alerted to the mistake by at least one well-credentialed VC reader who alerted me to the TNR piece.
FURTHER UPDATE: The ACLU has now sent a letter to AG Holder opposing a federal criminal prosecution of Zimmerman, despite its press release from several days ago advocating further federal action. Sounds like some palace intrigue at the ACLU, if anyone has details of what’s going on, please share.