President Obama has nominated a former Mumia Abu-Jamal lawyer, Debo Adegbile, to head up the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. The nomination has spurred outrage among conservative groups that are questioning Adegbile’s defense of a convicted cop killer in advance of his confirmation hearing.
Adegbile and other lawyers from the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund successfully defended Abu-Jamal against prosecutors’ attempts to reinstate his death sentence. Tuesday, Roland Martin was joined on “NewsOne Now” by the Legal Defense & Educational Fund’s Sherrilyn Ifill to discuss Adegbile’s nomination and the controversy surrounding his defense of Abu-Jamal.
“We represented Mr. Abu-Jamal for the same reason the we represent many people who are criminal defendants, because we stand for the principle that every criminal defendant – especially in a capital case – is entitled to the full panoply of rights the Constitution affords them,” says Ifill. “We’re particularly solicitous of this in the context of the death penalty because of the very well documented racial disparities in the application of the death penalty.”
Ultimately, Ifill says examining Adegbile’s full career paints a clearer picture of why he’s a good candidate to head up the head up the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
“He has argued in the Supreme Court. He’s regarded as one of the nation’s premiere voting rights attorneys. He did work here on behalf of residents of New Orleans in the post-Katrina aftermath. His career is, without question, one of a powerful, strong, committed civil rights lawyer and everything about his career suggests that in fact he’s perfect for this job,” says Adegbile.
Listen to Sherrilyn Ifill’s thoughts on Debo Adegbile’s nomination