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Senate Rejects Controversial Justice Dept. Pick

March 5, 2014, 11:55 AM by Ben Dunsmoor
Updated: March 5, 2014, 1:22 PM

Senate Rejects Controversial Justice Dept. Pick
Debo Adegbile


President Barack Obama's choice to head the Justice Department's civil rights division has not been confirmed.

With a 47-52 vote the Senate rejected the nomination of Debo Adegbile Wednesday for Assistant United States Attorney General.

The controversy over Adegbile stems from his legal representation of a man imprisoned in the murder of a Philadelphia policeman decades ago. 

Obama says Adegbile played by the rules as a lawyer but that Washington's political system has used the rules against him.

Tuesday night the South Dakota Fraternal Order of Police issued a statement encouraging South Dakota's Senators to vote against the controversial nominee.

President Barack Obama says the Senate's failure to move ahead on his choice to run the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division is a "travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant."

Law enforcement agencies - including the South Dakota Fraternal Order of Police - opposed the nomination because of Adegbile's representation of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a Black Panther who gunned down a Philadelphia police officer in 1981. Adegbile assisted in getting the convicts death penalty overturned.

United States Senator John Thune told KELOLAND News Wednesday morning that he planned to vote against Adegbile's confirmation.

Senator Tim Johnson's office says there has been a lot of misinformation surrounding Adegbile's confirmation.

“I am supportive of the nomination of Debo Adegbile to be Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice," Johnson said in a statement Wednesday. "In the traditions of the legal profession, even the most unpopular clients deserve representation like U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts, a George W. Bush appointee, did when he provided legal assistance to a condemned prisoner on death row.”

Adegbile was at the NAACP Legal Defense fund when the organization began representing Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was appealing his conviction in the killing in 1981 of a police officer.

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