A New York Times write-up Thursday defended Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision not to charge two officers for the fatal shooting of a black man by pointing out the Obama administration would have done the same.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) declined to bring civil rights charges Wednesday against the two officers involved in the July shooting of Alton Sterling, citing a lack of evidence to charge them. Officers maintained they shot Sterling because he reached for his gun as they tried to arrest him.
While civil rights organizations called the decision an “erosion” of civil rights , the NYT pointed out that the Sessions DOJ was merely following in the footsteps of the Obama DOJ.
“In declining to prosecute officers in the July shooting of Alton B. Sterling in Baton Rouge, Mr. Sessions was keeping with — not breaking from — a long standing pattern,” the NYT said. “Even under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department rarely prosecuted police officers in deadly shootings, including those that inspired the greatest outrage.”
The Obama DOJ declined to bring charges against officers in numerous cases, such as the Michael Brown shooting and a case where Washington officers shot a man who threw rocks at them, NYT pointed out. The Sessions DOJ merely finished what the Obama DOJ had started in the investigation into the Sterling shooting, the NYT said.
“The decision in Mr. Sterling’s death was set in motion under the Obama administration. Prosecutors have known for months that it would be extremely difficult to bring charges, particularly because Mr. Sterling had a gun,” the article states.
The write-up also adds that bringing charges against officers in a civil rights case is incredibly difficult as prosecutors must meet a high legal standard.
“And the criminal justice system can favor police officers from the moment shots are fired. Officers have wide latitude about when to use deadly force if they perceive a threat and courts and juries have been hesitant to second-guess their decisions,” the article notes.
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