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July 25, 2012
Sheriff Arpaio Testifies in Racial Profiling Suit
The civil rights trial in Melendres v. Arpaio continues in federal court in Arizona. As expected, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who heads the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office which stands accused of a pattern and practice of racial profiling and other forms of discrimination against Latinos and immigrants, testified. His words and actions are central to the case.
JJ Hensley and the Arizona Republic have an in-depth report on Arpaio's testimony. The article characterizes the testimony as follows: "there are two Joe Arpaios -- the politician and the policy maker -- and there are questions as to which Arpaio is responsible for setting priorities for illegal-immigration enforcement."
Judge Murray Snow, who will decide the case without a jury, has imposed time limits of 20 hours per side for attorneys to make their cases. "The 31/2 hours Arpaio spent on the stand Tuesday under questioning from the plaintiffs' attorney -- nearly 20 percent of their allotted time -- demonstrated the importance of Arpaio's statements to their case."
"The attorney walked Arpaio through letters he'd received from constituents and statements he has made in print and in public that paint the Sheriff's Office as an organization in which the lines between racial insensitivity and racial discrimination are constantly blurred."
Plaintiff's counsel, Stanley Young, questioned Sheriff Arpaio about, among other things, statements made about Mexican immigrants in the book Joe's Law: America's Toughest Sheriff Takes on Illegal Immigration, Drugs and Everything Else That Threatens America by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Len Sherman. As recounted by Lawrence Downes on the New York Times blog, Arpaio on the stand blamed his co-author for the statements about Mexican immigrants refusing to assimilate and being immigration lawbreakers. (His co-author, by the way, disputes this, at least in part.)
Stay tuned as the trial continues.
UPDATE (July 25): For a summary of the testimony on Wednesday of a U.S. citizen of Mexican ancestry who was embarrassed and humiliated by a pat down in a traffic stop by a Maricopa County officer, click here.
UPDATE (July 26): The Arizona Republic reported that:
"Sheriff's Sgt. Brett Palmer testified in federal court Wednesday that he also forwarded racially insensitive e-mails to other deputies, including to members of the human-smuggling unit, one of which depicted a Hispanic man passed out near a bottle of tequila with the caption `Mexican Yoga.'"
"Research the 12-year employee of the Sheriff's Office did on federal immigration law ended up being cited by Arpaio during a 2009 news conference. It was later learned that the law Arpaio cited did not exist and that the research was a legal interpretation taken from an anti-illegal-immigration website."
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