Next Steps in Honoring Trayvon Martin: It's Time for Systemic Reform

Today, our thoughts are with Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, whose young son was taken from them far too soon.

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. We call on Attorney General Eric Holder to release strengthened guidance on the use of race in federal law enforcement. We also urge Congress to pass the End Racial Profiling Act. These specific actions would go a long way to ameliorate the widespread problem of racial profiling. We need solutions not only in Trayvon Martin's case, but also systemic reform.

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John Streby, at...

Shame on Mr. Romero and the ACLU for pandering to public ignorance and the continued efforts to make George Zimmerman into a scapegoat for the unfortunate death of Trayvon Martin. As Alan Dershowitz commented just this past weekend, the altercation between Martin and Zimmerman was a clear case of self-defense. The Florida prosecutors were unable to convince a jury to the contrary, and they returned the only verdict consistent with the facts. I expect the likes of Jesse Jackson to second-guess the jury's verdict, to play the race card by claiming that the jury was not one of Trayvon's peers (even though a "jury of peers" is provided to the accused, not the alleged victim), and to blatantly ignore the well-documented injuries sustained by Zimmerman, including skull lacerations and a broken nose, all of which supported his side of the story. However, the ACLU ought to know better. To subject Zimmerman to yet another trial, for which the seating of an impartial jury would be almost impossible, would be a perversion of the civil rights laws. How in the world could any jury be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that when Zimmerman pulled the trigger, ostensibly to save his life, the race of his attacker mattered even in the least to him? If the races of the two men were reversed, would the ACLU be taking a stand? Indeed, if Zimmerman were black and Martin were white, would Zimmerman have even been prosecuted in the first place? The ACLU takes pride that it help pressure the governor to appoint a special prosecutor, who opted to bypass the grand jury, and recently further distinguished herself by firing the assistant who had the effrontery to disclose that information had been withheld from Zimmerman's lawyers. These are the issues that should interest the ACLU, not the fact that---God forbid---a young black man is dead and jury was satisfied that the man who pulled the trigger acted in self-defense.
The issue of collateral jurisdiction, and abusive use of overlapping legal authority and redundant federal criminal charges against someone who has already been acquitted in state court, ought to be of grave concern to the ACLU. It is bad enough that conservative courts have rendered the double jeopardy clause of the U.S. Constitution virtually meaningless; it is shocking that the ACLU would support such evisceration of what was once a strong protection against legalized harassment. The ACLU should show that it is an enlightened and responsible organization, not just another ideologically-oriented special interest group. Does Mr. Romero speak for the ACLU, or are his comments solely his own views? And where is the ACLU on issues where it could be helpful, such as the disgraceful state of indigent criminal defense in this country, under which lawyers are paid so little and given such poor support with investigative services, expert witnesses and the like that a personal wrongfully accused stands a significant chance of being convicted anyway.

When influential persons and organizations issue irresponsible statements, that does not help the "dialog" on race relations that everyone agrees is sorely needed in the U.S. Instead, such statements worsen the racial divide that already exists. The prosecutor tried to convict George Zimmerman and failed to do so. We all need to move on to relevant issues, not expend valuable time and effort re-hashing what is now a done deal.

Let me close with a challenge to Mr. Romero --- I'd like to debate you on radio, because such a debate would prove to listeners that you and your organization are way out of line here. Are you prepared to put your beliefs to the test? I won't hold my breath waiting for your reply.

Anonymous

I've been an ACLU member for longer than I can remember but the organization is not the same. Its view in favor of illegal immigrants, of pretending that the Second Amendment is not part of the Bill of Rights, of ignoring the Heller decision, and now its comments regarding the outcome of the legally decided Zimmerman trial, all have me doubting if I should stay with the ACLU.

Anonymous

If racial profiling was not involved why did Zimmerman assume Trayvon Martin was suspicious individual? Don't say what Trayvon should have done things differently because he was not bothering anyone when Zimmerman assumed he posed a threat to his community because he was black like the other individuals his community assumed were responsible for other break ins.

If you think it is okay to make an assumption about someone based on their appearance, you are part of the problem.

Anonymous

With all the hatred directed at George Zimmerman, from the ACLU, DOJ, White House ("Trayvon could be my son") NAACP and all the media outlets, you all won't be happy until George Zimmerman is dead. Are you here to protect the civil liberties of everyone or just black people? I don't have a dog in this fight, I am sorry Trayvon Martin is dead, I am sorry that George Zimmerman took his life in a moment of fear or whatever it was. I hate death. I don't think it was hatred. What I am seeing now is hatred. The media is still calling him the "most hated man in America." How is that possible? I have never seen black or white but I am now. I'm 56 years old and have never seen this much hate towards another human being. Sickening. You should change the name of your organization to American Civil Liberties for Some not All. Shame on you all!

KW Wilson
Chapel Hill NC

Anonymous

Without having been on the jury, I certainly hope the ACLU isn't taking a position on the outcome of this trial, or any trial for that matter. The jury's decision needs to be respected.

Anonymous

Yes, racial preference is alive .. Just ask parents of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman.. Where were the protestors then?

Anonymous

I am disturbed and deeply disappointed that the ACLU has abandoned its long-term commitment to civil liberties and has firmly moved into the advocacy for government-forced redistribution instead. The fight against double jeopardy used to be one of the core ACLU hallmarks. Now, the ACLU is lobbying for double jeopardy because they dislike the verdict. Another ACLU hallmark used to be the fight against vague, politically-based criminal laws that are so easily abused by the government. Now, the ACLU demands the wide expansion of "hate crime" laws and the adoption of some loony "racial profiling" statutes that presumably would make it illegal for people like Zimmerman (private individual, out on public streets, on his own time) from walking the way they want and following whomever they want, without breaking any other laws. Shameful. ACLU founders must be turning in their graves.

Anonymous

If the ACLU wants to pursue systematic change that all people can agree with it should take this opportunity to focus on the misdeeds of prosecutors that was highlighted in the Zimmerman case. Likely for the first time many whites were able to see how prosecutors today routinely ignore and break the law as a matter of course and without fear of reprisal. In this particular case, prosecutors even had the audacity to openly and brazenly threaten people who attempted to shine a light on their obvious misdeeds. See Alan Dershowitz for his charges against Special Prosecutor Angela Corey in last nights interview with Mike Huckabee and see how Dershowitz reveals how Corey contacted the Dean at Harvard (where he is employed) in an attempt to silence his observations on what he felt were crimes committed by Corey. See how Corey's office fired an internal whistleblower that reported her office's withholding of evidence from the Zimmerman defense. His firing was based on poor job performance and inappropriate actions just one month after a glowing job appraisal. This displays a pattern. Break the law in a unrestricted fashion, threaten anyone that might squeal, and get away with the misdeeds without reprimand. Many if not most black people feel that the judicial system cannot be trusted, and now white people should be able to understand why they feel the way they do. Can you imagine what prosecuting officials may do when there is no vast public oversight into a case? It boggles the mind. If you want systematic reform that all Americans should be able to get behind, the best example that could ever be obtained has just played out in the public's eyes.

Anonymous

Dear ACLU,

Please present some compelling evidence that we should honor Trayvon Martin.

Anonymous

I expect better of the ACLU. Is the ACLU now saying that we convict people without proof beyond a reasonable doubt? Blacks are already often the disproportionate victims of the justice system. Do we really want to reduce the standard of proof so it is easier to get a conviction. Making it easier to get convictions of white people also makes it easier to get convictions of black people. Really, we need more convictions of blacks? I don't think so.

Do we want to force people to talk, rather than remain silent pursuant to the Fifth Amendment. If whites can be forced to talk, so can blacks.

I watched the entire Zimmerman trial, and as much as I wanted Zimmerman to be guilty (because of the tragic death of Martin), the evidence just wasn't there.

We need a change of attitude not a change in the burden of proof or to make it otherwise easier to convict. Without more evidence (which may become available in a wrongful death action against Zimmerman), Zimmerman is the wrong case to do it.

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