The ACLU has decided to imitate Emily Litella and reversed its stance on pursuing federal charges against George Zimmerman.
Emily Litella was the fictional news commentator created by the late Gilda Radner. Litella was known for going on opinionated rants about current topics, often based on confusion over a particular word like “Texas” rather than “taxes” — then when her mistake was pointed out, she would close her segment by turning to the audience and sheepishly saying, “Never mind.”
The ACLU basically did the same thing with the Zimmerman case. Immediately after the verdict, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero fired off a statement that said, “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.”
Cooler heads have apparently prevailed, with the ACLU now telling Attorney General Eric Holder that pursuing federal charges would violate the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Constitution.
While it’s likely that Holder had to look up this thing called the Constitution, he probably got the message loud and clear: His witch hunt against George Zimmerman doesn’t have the support of the ACLU.
ACLU Washington Office Director Laura Murphy wrote to Holder, “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.”
After the public backlash and the repudiation of his fellow attorneys, now Romero is singing a different tune.
“I think there are real serious concerns about going back on the double jeopardy policy,” Romero told Politico. “It is a slippery slope that if you allow the government to prosecute individuals for one crime and then fail and try again, it creates the wrong incentives for the criminal justice system. Good civil libertarians will differ on this issue, like lot of our issues that divide the membership or the leadership, whether it’s campaign finance or whether it’s civil rights prosecutions after a failed trial.”
The pressure to disavow Romero’s initial reaction came partly from former ACLU board members who were displeased with Romero abandoning the group’s traditional stance on double jeopardy.
Who knows? Maybe “Justice for Trayvon” may yet include justice for Zimmerman.