In a highly unusual move, Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered a federal medical examiner to perform a second autopsy on Michael Brown, the unarmed man who was shot by police officer Darren Wilson.
The media reports I’ve read about this announcement have been strikingly incurious about the obvious — something Jazz Shaw points out:
Their own spokesperson is using the phrase “extraordinary circumstances” here, so that seems to be an acknowledgement that the normal protocols are in flux. I’m not suggesting that this is illegal – unless somebody can cite a specific instance to make that case – but what is there about the death of Michael Brown that makes this a federal case? If you sweep aside the wall to wall media coverage and celebrities flocking to Ferguson, this is a case of one person who was shot during a confrontation with a local police officer, allegedly on the heels of a low dollar value robbery at a convenience store. Nobody crossed state lines that I’m aware of. And when you look at it in that perspective, there are many such cases around the country every year. (Many more than we would like to see, it should go without saying.)
No federal crime has been committed so how can there be a federal investigation? There’s no way the feds would step on St. Louis County’s toes and file federal civil rights violations against Officer Wilson. They would allow the murder investigation and prosecution to go forward before stepping in.
This is a blatantly political move by Obama/Holder, capitalizing on a racially explosive situation to score points with the black community — a constituency they believe is vital to Democrats if they are to hold the Senate.
Here’s part of DoJ’s statement announcing the additional autopsy:
“Due to the extraordinary circumstances involved in this case and at the request of the Brown family, Attorney General Holder has instructed Justice Department officials to arrange for an additional autopsy to be performed by a federal medical examiner. This independent examination will take place as soon as possible,” the statement said.
The first autopsy was conducted by the state of Missouri and the justice department release said it would take that investigation into account.
“Even after it is complete, Justice Department officials still plan to take the state-performed autopsy into account in the course of their investigation,” the release said.
I’m sure we all sympathize with the Brown family in wishing for an impartial and disinterested look at the evidence. But just because they ask for federal assistance, does that mean they get it? If other families in similar circumstances asked, would Holder comply?
That’s why the Justice Department involvement smacks of partisan politics to me. In this, the most politicized DoJ since Nixon, we’ve come to expect this kind of cynical manipulation of the law for political purposes.