As obscene as Lemrick Nelson’s admission that he killed Yankel Rosenbaum most certainly is, what it says about how our criminal justice system is failing the Jewish community will
perhaps be more enduring. In dramatic fashion, by highlighting the truth of something a jury in 1992 declined to acknowledge despite overwhelming evidence, it underscores something that
should have been apparent for more than a decade. While crimes against victims who happen to be Jewish may not regularly go unpunished, the high profile, notorious ones, those which
highlight the Jewishness of the victim, are a different matter altogether.
Ten years ago, a jury acquitted el Sayyid Nossair of the crime of killing Rabbi Meir Kahane despite overwhelming evidence of his culpability. Indeed, Nossair was convicted by the same jury of possessing the weapon tied to the killing which was found on him when he was arrested fleeing from the murder scene.
In the aftermath of the 1994 murder of Ari Halberstam, although his killer, Rashid Baz, was convicted and given a 141 year sentence, it was treated by prosecutors as a matter of “road
rage,” unconnected to anything broadly anti-Semitic. This, despite the fact that Halberstam was shot while riding in a car full of identifiably Jewish students, who were severely injured,
and strong evidence that Baz had accomplices and was linked to an anti-Jewish cabal.
In 1999, Gideon Busch was shot dead by six NYPD police officers who were arrayed in a semi-circle at least 8 feet away from him while he was brandishing a hammer over his head.
Only the most perfunctory internal police investigation followed, and no indictments were forthcoming.
This was all in sharp contrast to the official reactions to the deaths at the hands of police of several members of other communities, such as the death of Amadou Diallo. Indeed, any
progress in securing justice in the murder of Yankel Rosenbaum is not because of our criminal justice system, but rather because of the tenacity of his brother, Norman Rosenbaum, who happens to be a savvy and talented lawyer from Australia.
Moreover, we should never forget that Yankel Rosenbaum was killed in the course of a anti-Jewish pogrom by black marauders, which was allowed by state and local officials to
continue for three days in order to let them vent!
Lemrick Nelson’s admission that he stabbed Yankel Rosenbaum confirms a travesty of justice. But it is also reaffirms an institutional bias against acting as though Jewishness is the lightning rod it unfortunately is.
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