k On July 14, 1978, the Justice Department announced a long-awaited decision not to prosecute the case of Santos Rodriguez in federal court on civil rights charges. Rodriguez, a 12-year-old Chicano boy, was shot to death while handcuffed in a police car by Darrel Cain, a police officer in Dallas. The officer was convicted in a Dallas court of murder with malice on November 16, 1973, and was sentenced to five years in prison, which he is serving now. In his announcement, Attorney General Griffin Bell said there were two main factors that led to the decision against a dual prosecution: The state prosecution of Cain was prompt and vigorous and resulted in a jury conviction of the highest degree murder and a jury-set jail sentence involving his imprisonment for a term of years. The time that has lapsed since the state conviction and the pre-indictment delay raised a number of particular legal problems. And yetdespite these reasons, had the Justice Department wanted to prosecute, they would have. Had President Carter wanted to exert more influence on Justice in this case, he could have. And as to whether the Justice Department has, in the President’s words, “done a good job” in this casewe think not. And in the matter of guilt, the Justice Department has, we believe, just as much blood on its hands as Darrell Cain did the night of the murder. Several days before the July 24 statute of limitations was due to run out, Vice President Mondale met at the White House with Vilma S. Martinez, President and General Counsel of MALDEF, and a group of Hispanic leaders from around the country. A priority on the agenda was reversing the Justice Department decision on Santos Rodriguez within the few days that were left. The Vice President promised to arrange a meeting between Deputy Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti and Chicano leaders in Texas before the deadline. At the Washington press conference following the meeting with the Vice President, Ms. Martinez issued the following statement: “. . Today, we urged Vice President Mondale to work to convene a White House conference on Domestic Human Rights. We have pressed the Justice Department to take a strong leadership role in addressing this shameful national problem. MALDEF has submitted 56 cases of police brutality to the Justice Department. MALDEF and other Hispanic leaders who met to discuss police brutality in Dallas this past May sent President Carter a letter recommending appropriate and necessary actions that are in his power to take. We have not received an answer to this letter. “I have traveled 3,000 miles today to tell you that our elected and appointed officials are not meeting their responsibilities, as leaders-and as human beings. Human rights are human rightsin Russia as well as in Texas. Our Administration is afflicted with far-sightedness when it can condemn the Russians but not its own law enforcement officers. “As our leaders persist in demonstrating to us their lack of regard for our rights, we will have to demonstrate to them just where we stand. If the White House will not convene a conference on Domestic Human Rights, we will convene our own conference. If the Justice Department does not act within the next few days on the case of a 12-year-old boy who was shot to death by a policeman, we will assume the Department has abnegated its constitutionally mandated responsibility. We will assume the Carter Administration does not give a damn about us. “The Administration’s insensitivity to this problemindeed to our nationwide Hispanic communityleaves us few alternatives for action. The possibility for great social unrest in the months to come is very real. It could be that the Administration needs to see us, in our great numbers and strength, to understand that we are not kidding. We are not raising our children to become bulls’-eyes for police target practice.” Neither the White House nor the Justice Department has answered us, in word or in action. In the wake of a government which repeatedly ignores us, we must develop new strategies to protect our people from police brutality and assure justice to those who have already been victims. We need your help. Won’t you give whatever you can to this life-saving project? MALDEF 501 Petroleum Commerce Building 201 N. St. Mary’s Street San Antonio, Texas 78205 Enclosed is my contribution of $ Name Address City State Zip Make checks payable to MALDEF. Contributions are tax deductible. A Public Service Message from the American Income Life Insurance Co.Executive Offices, Waco, TexasBernard Rapoport, Chairman of the Board 14 AUGUST 11, 1978
You May Also Like
The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.