July 17, 2013

AG Eric Holder pans 'Stand Your Ground'

The attorney general tells the NAACP such laws 'senselessly expand the concept of self-defense.'

By Manuel Roig-Franzia and Sari Horwitz / The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

Eric Holder
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Attorney General Eric Holder delivers the keynote address at the annual convention of the NAACP, which is pressing him to bring civil rights charges in the Trayvon Martin case.

The Associated Press

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Holder sharply criticized last month's Supreme Court ruling that invalidated a critical component of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. The court said that Congress must come up with a new formula based on current data to determine which states should be subject to pre-approval by the Justice Department or a court when changing voting laws.

Holder said that the Justice Department would not wait for Congress to take action. In a significant move, he announced that he is shifting resources in the department's Civil Rights Division to focus on provisions of the Voting Rights Act that were not affected by the Supreme Court's ruling, including Section 2, which prohibits voting discrimination based on race, color or language.

In the convention center lobby here, though, the conversation on Tuesday was mostly about a slain teenager, and the events leading up to and following his death.

Gary Bledsoe, vice chairman of the NAACP's legal committee, said that he heard enough during Zimmerman's three-week trial to convince him that race played a role. Martin was unarmed but, according to defense attorneys, initiated a physical fight after Zimmerman began tailing him. Prosecutors said Zimmerman profiled Martin and began the confrontation.

Especially compelling, to Bledsoe, was a statement Zimmerman made in a call to a non-emergency police line after first spotting Martin: "These a-------, they always get away." Any linguist would say Zimmerman's comment had racial connotations, Bledsoe said.

"There are so many references with clear racial undertones," Bledsoe, a Texas civil rights lawyer, said in an interview. "You can break down the language."

It will be hard for Holder to ignore an NAACP petition, signed by more than 1 million people, asking for civil rights charges against Zimmerman. "That's leverage," Bledsoe said.

And indeed, in his speech, Holder assured the delegates that the Justice Department is investigating Zimmerman for possible civil rights charges.

But current and former Justice Department attorneys, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said that bringing civil rights charges against Zimmerman would be extremely difficult, and may not be possible.


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