Author Robert Tanenbaum still dedicated to principles of justice

[UPI News] – Robert K. Tanenbaum is still an unabashed idealist who believes in the principles on which the United States was founded.The veteran prosecutor, Kennedy and King assassination investigator, best-selling author, who gives his age as “39, use your imagination,” laments the direction the criminal justice system and the political process in general have taken in recent years — and he doesn’t see it getting better any time soon.”In the country right now, the great divide that exists is getting deeper,” the Brooklyn-born Tanenbaum said in a wide-ranging interview with UPI in advance of the Aug. 13 publication of his latest novel, “Tragic.” “We need problem-solvers and not ideologues.”Tanenbaum said he uses his novels and protagonist Butch Karp to “deal with the kinds of moral questions that are confronting a lot of prosecutors in this country. We have to maintain the integrity of the system. …”My feeling … is prosecutors from the attorney general to U.S. attorneys to local district attorneys have a tremendous obligation to maintain the dignity of the system. Anyone suggesting police use torture or [district attorneys] countenancing it by not being aggressive in investigating it are doing a terrible disservice.”Tanenbaum quit the Manhattan district attorney’s office in 1977, fed up with how political it had become and upset decisions on whether to prosecute and what penalties to seek were based more on the politics of the moment than on the law or fairness.He said he does not think plea bargains are appropriate in many cases because there are certain crimes that need to be fully punished, among them the case of Ariel Castro, who held three women hostage in his Cleveland home for a decade and was sentenced last week to life without parole plus 1,000 years after pleading guilty to 937 counts, including aggravated murder for jumping on the stomach of one of his captives to force her to miscarry — a capital offense.”He has violated every standard of human civilized conduct,” Tanenbaum said. “He adversely affected each of these individuals beyond imagination. If we have a death penalty and don’t use it — there’s no rational reason not to use it.”By taking a plea, the prosecution is saying no one should have the death penalty.”With the ability to sit back and take a longer view, Tannenbaum, who now occasionally takes cases as a defense attorney, talked about the recent trial involving George Zimmerman, who shot and killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin as the youth walked to his father’s house in a gated community in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman was acquitted but the jury’s decision has sparked widespread protests nationwide and demands the Justice Department pursue a civil rights violation case.The case should never have been brought, Tanenbaum said.”From the very beginning,” he said, “having handled hundreds of homicide cases, Zimmerman struck me as a non-case. A tragedy occurred. The only witnesses to the scene were people who actually saw the deceased on top of the defendant, pummeling him with his fists.”Though Zimmerman may have provoked the incident by following Martin and confronting him, he did nothing illegal, Tanenbaum said. Once Martin got the upper hand, it was a clear case of self-defense and the police chief‘s decision not to bring charges immediately stained the entire prosecution case.”Politics pressured prosecutors to level charges. … You’d be hard-pressed to find killers who want to attack people who are calling up 911 [as Zimmerman did]. Following him wasn’t a crime. The confrontation between the two of them is where the evidentiary chain begins … reflects who was the aggressor at the time. The prosecution didn’t have evidence to contradict the defendant‘s statement,” he said.”As tragic as this case is … by going around and parading this issue as a racial issue … is the very worst thing you can do.”

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