Eric Holder and Ferguson- Steve Malzberg and Kendall Coffey Spinning the Law 8/21/14
Steve Malzberg: Alright folks, welcome back! And you can tell by the opener that it is time for Kendall Coffey and Spinning the Law. Founding member of Coffey Burlington and he is with us, hello Kendall
Kendall Coffey: Hey Steve, thanks so much for having me on today.
Steve Malzberg: It is my pleasure. Alright, let me ask you this question because I’ve been bringing it up and I’m dying to get the legal answer and not my phony legal opinion. Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States, now we’ve heard the president talk about the case in Ferguson, and I need to watch what I say. He didn’t do that with Trayvon Martin and he didn’t do it with the Cambridge incident, but he did in this instance.
So Eric Holder goes down there and Eric Holder is talking about how this is personal for him. It’s not necessarily about the law, it’s personal for him. And he brings up his own situation and history where he claims he was stopped on the New Jersey turnpike for no reason, etc. And this is on the day or the eve of the day in which the grand jury is convening.
Is this prejudicing, if that’s the word, this case at all? Could a lawyer at trial eventually bring up what the attorney general said at all or am I just in fantasy land?
Kendall Coffey: Well I think it could certainly contribute to a view that the flames are being fanned at pre-trial publicity, and that could be an issue down the road that gets into venue changes or things like that. But we all have to recognize that this is an extraordinary thing for the United State Attorney General to go onto the scene of an investigation in its early stages. It is very hard to recall that, I can think of maybe one in recent years when Attorney General Holder was down dealing with BP, but just as a general matter? This hardly ever happens!
What does it do? Well I think that in the Attorney General’s mind it’s going to calm the community down. But let me tell you a couple things it does. Necessarily it’s going to put more pressure on prosecutors and FBI agents because they’re going to perceive that the guy at the top wants some action.
So I think that’s a legitimate concern. It is going to create community expectations. Because I think that in Holder’s mind he wants a fair, objective investigation, I certainly hope so , and if the community after seeing him come there and hearing these remarks, does not see a federal investigation, I think there’s going to be huge disappointment.
And the other side of it is from the standpoint of the police community, which is rallying behind officer Darrin Wilson, make no mistake about it, they now see an attorney general who is indicating some degree of unusual personal interest and personal investment in an investigation. So if there’s a federal prosecution actually brought there’s going to be a concern on that side that this thing was not as fairly and objectively considered as it should have been.
And we all need to bear in mind that as much as this case is the cause of family ad friends and supporters of Michael Brown, this is a very big cause- even a national cause- for the police community which I think largely believes that the officer is being scapegoated and those concerns are certainly not softened by the high profile presence of the nation’s highest ranking law enforcement officer.