Durham D.A. admits ideology will influence his prosecutorial discretion

If you don’t mind feeling nauseated, check out this statement by Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols, in which he explains the factors he will consider in determining “a just resolution” to the case of those who destroyed the public monument in Durham. Echols says he will balance accountability for the destruction of property against the “climate in which these actions were undertaken.” He seems to believe that a neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, after which one neo-Nazi ran over counter-protesters, is a partial justification, or at least a mitigating circumstance, for the unlawful destruction of property in Durham.

Echols proceeds to double down on this lawless theory of “justice.” He claims that justice requires him to consider the “pain of recent events in Charlottesville, and the pain in Durham and the nation.” I must have been absent the day my criminal law professor discussed emotional pain as a defense for vandalism.

Echols’ novel theory is a recipe for anarchy. Michael “Gentle Giant” Brown is shot in Ferguson? Smash some windows. Trayvon Martin is killed in Florida? Loot whitey’s store. You may be prosecuted, but if Roger Echols has his way you may get off lightly because of your pain.

Echols also says he must consider the fact that the citizens of Durham have “no proper recourse for asking our local government to remove or relocate this monument.” He’s referring to a North Carolina law that prohibits localities from removing monuments.

This is more lawlessness from the Durham County D.A. He doesn’t like a law duly enacted by his state, so he’s going to register his disagreement by not prosecuting, or by going easy on, those who flout state law by destroying property in violation of local law.

Echols concludes on a particularly sanctimonious note. He intones that a just resolution requires that he “be aware that asking people to be patient and to let various government institutions address injustice is sometimes asking more than those who have been historically ignored, marginalized, or harmed by the system can bear.”

I assume Echols means African-Americans, not members of the communist group that, reportedly, pulled down the monument. If justice requires an examination of the politics and ideology of the perpetrators, maybe the fact that these perps apparently seek to bring about a socialist revolution should be considered.

But how marginalized are Durham’s blacks, anyway? They helped elect a D.A. who is willing to overlook or go easy on lawlessness out of sympathy for “historical” mistreatment of African-Americans. (Echols himself is African-American). If anyone is marginalized in Durham these days, it is probably those who want to see public property protected from left-wing mobs and, more generally, those who want to see the law enforced without regard to race or political agenda.

In any event, no one is asking the Durham commies to be patient. They are simply being asked to abide by the law. It ill behooves a District Attorney to tell them this is too much to bear. Indeed, such an assertion should disqualify a D.A. from remaining in the job.

Former Durham County D.A. Mike Nifong disgraced himself by pandering to the Durham electorate in the Duke lacrosse case. Let’s hope that when Roger Echols makes his decision on how to handle the destruction of the monument, he doesn’t follow suit.

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