[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]
This came out over the weekend, but let’s bring it up when people are paying more attention. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report on what they know so far about the New Black Panthers case. The Washington Times has extensive coverage, and you can read the report for yourself, here. But what leapt out at me just reading the introduction was how much of the report was talking about how the DOJ is covering things up:
Third, evidence obtained pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by a third party indicates that this matter was not simply a difference of opinion between career attorneys. Instead, the record of communications within the Department appears to indicate that senior political appointees played a significant role in the decision making surrounding the lawsuit. The involvement of senior DOJ officials by itself would not be unusual, but the Department’s repeated attempts to obscure the nature of their involvement and other refusals to cooperate raise questions about what the Department is trying to hide.
These serious accusations deserve to either be proven or exposed as false. While the Department has issued general statements that it enforces the laws without regard to race, these assurances do not confirm, deny, or explain the specific allegations of misconduct raised by Mr. Coates and Mr. Adams.4 Unfortunately, the Department has thus far refused to address many of these specific claims or to provide the type of information that would allow the Commission to properly review the decision making relating to the NBPP lawsuit.
What was not anticipated was the extent of the Department’s lack of cooperation. At various times the Department alleged it would provide no information because the matter was being reviewed by its Office of Professional Responsibility. At other times, the Department raised a wide variety of legal privileges, many of which seemed to have no relevance to the current investigation. Although the Department eventually began to provide some information, including 4,000 pages of documents, much of the information provided either did not relate to the New Black Panther Party litigation, involved matters that were already public, or involved prior voter intimidation lawsuits. While useful, this information did not address the core of the Commission’s inquiry as to why the NBPP lawsuit had been challenged internally.
I haven’t read it all yet and don’t plan to today. But at the very least this stonewalling must end.
And I will add that it is important to demand race-neutral enforcement. Even if you don’t care about the New Black Panther case, you should be concerned because if it is found that these prosecutions are occurring in a racially biased fashion, then white defendants will be able to challenge their prosecution on the basis of bias.
Update: In the comments, one person doubted that this would endanger other prosecutions. United States v. Armstrong says otherwise:
a prosecutor’s discretion is “subject to constitutional constraints.” One of these constraints, imposed by the equal protection component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment is that the decision whether to prosecute may not be based on “an unjustifiable standard such as race, religion, or other arbitrary classification[.]” A defendant may demonstrate that the administration of a criminal law is “directed so exclusively against a particular class of persons . . . with a mind so unequal and oppressive” that the system of prosecution amounts to “a practical denial” of equal protection of the law.
In order to dispel the presumption that a prosecutor has not violated equal protection, a criminal defendant must present “clear evidence to the contrary.”
(Citations omitted.) Unlike, say, the unequal treatment afforded Geitner, this is racial discrimination we are talking about and it will be taken much more seriously. The DOJ has endangered every prosecution its office has engaged in, in the last two years, by this (alleged) racial discrimination.
[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]