Holder: Stand your ground laws 'senselessly expand the concept of self-defense'
From GOPUSA.com,By Orlando Sentinel (FL) ORLANDO, Fla. - U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation's first black to hold that post, urged NAACP members convening in Orlando on Tuesday to help overturn stand-your-ground laws that "senselessly expand the concept of self-defense." The law was expected to be at the center of the second-degree-murder trial of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, but it was not raised at trial. The issue did surface when Zimmerman was arrested. Rather than prevent violence, Holder said, such laws can encourage it.
"We must stand our ground," Holder said to thunderous applause, "to ensure our laws reduce violence."
Holder also said his office is examining all available evidence before deciding whether to pursue charges against neighborhood watchman Zimmerman in the shooting death of the black teen _ though he gave no indication of the timetable involved.
He told NAACP members attending the group's 104th annual convention to peacefully confront "the unfortunate stereotypes" that sometimes lead to police suspicion and private misjudgment. Holder praised the relatively peaceful reaction to Saturday's acquittal of Zimmerman and the "dignity" of Martin's parents.
But he also recounted the personal incidents of racial profiling he had faced as a young man, including being stopped on the New Jersey turnpike for no reason and being questioned by an officer one night while running to catch a movie in Washington's trendy Georgetown district.
"I was at the time of that last incident a federal prosecutor," Holder noted.
In a rare public disclosure, Holder also shared how, when he was a teen, his father had instructed him on how to conduct himself if he were ever stopped by the police _ and how Holder found himself having the same talk with his own 15-year-old son after Martin's death.
"I am sure that my father felt certain that his generation was the last that would have to worry about such things for their children," Holder said.
After Holder's speech, NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous said he was "extremely pleased" that the Justice Department is "fully invested in the George Zimmerman case" and to hear Holder's "strong, principled opposition to stand-your-ground laws."
Jealous said federal investigators need to examine evidence barred by the judge in the second-degree-murder case allegedly showing racism was a factor in the killing.
"The reality is that much of the evidence that is most germane to say (the case was) a hate-crime violation hasn't been introduced," Jealous said. They've got to focus on witness No. 9: George Zimmerman's relative who called and said that he (Zimmerman) had committed racial acts and that she believed that racism was a factor. They need to go back and talk to those boys in his gated community who said they believe he targeted and harassed them because of their race."
Holder also addressed the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision striking down key portions of the Voting Rights Act by assuring listeners that the Department of Justice was shifting resources to protect against discrimination at the polls.
Barriers based on race persist, despite other progress, Holder said: "These problems are real. They are significant. They erode our democracy."
Earlier, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan drew applause for his vow to continue investigations into housing discrimination that already have resulted in more than $65 million in compensation for 25,000 individuals.
"While blatant, in-your-face discrimination is still very real today, a quieter form of discrimination has emerged that is just as harmful to our country," Donovan said.
He cited a report released by HUD last month revealing that, after an initial showing, real-estate agents and rental-housing providers recommend and show fewer available homes to minority families than to equally qualified whites.
At 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are scheduled to speak at the convention's final session. They will be joined by Martin Luther King III and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. according to Derek Turner, NAACP director of communications.
The Trayvon Martin shooting case and verdict, as well as voting rights, will be among topics discussed.
(Staff writer Jerriann Sullivan contributed to this report.)