Update October 30, 2015: Yesterday, a federal judge granted a form of prosecutorial immunity to Charles Kleinert, the police detective that shot and killed Larry Jackson, Jr, an unarmed black man, in Austin, Texas in 2013.
U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that because Kleinert was acting within his duties as a member of a FBI joint task force on bank robberies, he was entitled to “Supremacy Clause Immunity” based on a relatively obscure precedent set in a 1889 case.
This may end the case against Kleinert, and Tony Plohetski, a reporter at the Austin American-Statesman, noted, “It is unclear whether prosecutors will appeal, which could keep the case alive for the next several months as the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reviews the ruling.”
Adam Loewy, the attorney representing Jackson’s parents, told Matt Largey, a reporter for Austin public radio station KUT, that the decision was an “outrage,” adding:
“He was indicted by a Travis County jury, and he just got off on a legal technicality. That is the way the system is set up in this country and it must change.”
Loewy said he intends to ask the Justice Department to review the case.
On Facebook, organizers with the community group People’s Task Force called for a rally in response to the decision on Sunday evening.
AUSTIN, Texas — Two years ago, Austin Police Det. Charles Kleinert shot and killed Larry Jackson, Jr., an unarmed black man, under a bridge near one of the city’s many greenbelt trails. His death was the savage culmination of a wild chase through the city that ultimately led to Kleinert’s early retirement and indictment for manslaughter.
When Austin’s black community gathered on Aug. 24 for a forum on race and policing, it was Larry Jackson’s name on everyone’s lips. Although far from being the only source of tension between residents and police, Jackson’s death has united a diverse community of activists seeking police reform.
Adam Loewy, an Austin lawyer retained by the victim’s family, who sat on the panel at the forum, claims Jackson was “hunted down and beaten” before being murdered.
Kleinert maintains that his gun went off by accident, but Loewy dismisses this, based on his evaluation of the evidence. “You just don’t accidentally shoot someone in the back of the head,” he told MintPress News.
After multiple delays, Kleinert’s trial was recently moved to federal court. The former detective’s lawyers now argue that an obscure legal loophole may make him completely immune to prosecution, and the community that’s waited so long for Kleinert to have his day in court are worried justice is slipping out of reach.
Injustice in a growing city
Although Austin is known for being one of Texas’ most liberal cities, its race problem is almost undeniable. Recent studies have found that Austin’s population remains deeply segregated, a legacy of an openly racist, pre-civil rights era that’s only worsened amid gentrification and a rapidly rising cost of living.
A 2014 study by the University of Texas found that Austin is the only city in the United States experiencing double-digit population growth while simultaneously losing its black population:
“Austin, Texas has consistently ranked among the fastest growing major cities in the United States (a major city is defined here as one with a population of more than 500,000 in 2000). U.S. Census data from 2000 and 2010 reveal a total population growth rate of 20.4%, making Austin the third fastest growing major city in the nation during that decade.
… Austin experienced a decline in African Americans at -5.4%, with general population growth of 20.4%. It is the only city among the ten fastest growing cities where general population growth and African-American growth point in opposite directions.”