The Justice Department is sending a powerful message about its priorities nowadays.
In just over the past two weeks, it’s opened investigations of authorities in Louisville, Kentucky, and Minneapolis. Federal prosecutors have charged four former Minneapolis police officials with civil rights offenses in George Floyd’s death, and convicted three men of hate crimes in the departure of Ahmaud Arbery at Georgia. In the criminal cases, police moved forward with federal charges before the majority of the defendants have gone to state offense.
Attorney General Merrick Garland is making good on his affirmation promise to refocus the section around civil rights following four years of tumult throughout the Trump administration, when such investigations waned along with the focus was on controlling immigration and the Russia probe.
“What we couldn’t get them to do in the case of Eric Garner, Michael Brown in Ferguson, and countless others, we are finally seeing them do,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said Friday after the charges have been announced in Floyd’s departure.
Former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin has already been convicted of murder and manslaughter charges in state court and is scheduled to be sentenced June 25. The federal case could be insurance from a successful state appeal or a lenient sentence.
Separately, national officials accused Chauvin at a 2017 case involving Chauvin’s arrest of a 14-year-old boy. Chauvin hit the boy, who is Black, with a flashlight and pinned him to the ground, placing his knee to the boy’s neck and back.
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, has filed a petition for a new trial in Floyd’s death, citing a host of reasons, including advertisements that has been”so pervasive and so prejudicial… that it amounted to a structural defect in the proceedings.”
He argued that the trial judge, Peter Cahill, abused his discretion when he denied earlier requests to move the trial. Cahill hasn’t said when he would rule Nelson’s request for a new trial.
Nelson had no comment on the federal charges.
The 3 other officers brought up on civil rights fees, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao, haven’t been attempted yet in state court on charges of aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter in the Floyd case.
Usually, federal prosecutors hold off on any charges until local investigations are completed. But when they do, it’s frequently seen a safety net against the problem of law enforcement .
According to a individual familiar with the analysis, that occurred throughout the case against former officer Michael Slager at South Carolina. In 2015, Slager shot to death Walter Scott, a Black man who ran from a traffic stop.
Local prosecutors worried they couldn’t win a conviction, this person said, so national prosecutors stepped in and brought fees, working out a plea deal to solve both the federal and state cases. Slager was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.
The person wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss those internal deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The federal charge is limited in its range and has been seldom used. According to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC, federal prosecutors have used it an average of 41 times per year involving 1990 and 2019.
In the 1960therefore, federal government successfully prosecuted eight guys involved in the 1964 disappearances and murders of civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner in Neshoba County, Mississippi, after local authorities said they didn’t have sufficient evidence to prosecute anyone.
One of their very high profile applications of the national statutes came from the 1992 Rodney King case in Los Angeles. Federal authorities charged four law enforcement officers with violating King’s consti