Unlike New York, many states do not have a general terrorism statute that allows prosecutors to bring both international and domestic cases.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. this week encouraged lawmakers to pass a federal domestic terrorism statute to accomplish President Biden’s inaugural address pledge to “confront” and “defeat” the rise of homegrown extremist violence.
In a New York Law Journal op-ed, D.A. Vance highlighted the D.A.’s Office’s domestic terrorism conviction of white supremacist murderer James Harris Jackson in January 2019 – the first such conviction in New York state history – as an example of the instrumental role a federal statute, like New York state’s law, could play in holding domestic terrorists accountable for their actions. Jackson executed 66-year-old Timothy Caughman in midtown Manhattan solely because of the elder man’s Black skin – an evil deed he hoped would incite a global race war.
“Jackson’s conviction demonstrated a truth that has only grown more unassailable in the wake of this month’s insurrectionist siege on the U.S. Capitol: Domestic terrorism is terrorism, period,” D.A. Vance wrote. “It should be labeled as such and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Domestic terrorism, including white supremacist violence, must be formally recognized, labeled, and prosecuted across our justice system to avoid normalizing repulsive, hate-fueled behavior and missing opportunities to prevent future attacks, D.A. Vance added.
“The danger domestic terrorism poses to the health of our nation is undeniable at the outset of the Biden administration,” D.A. Vance concluded. “But so too is the opportunity to confront white supremacist violence – and reckon with our history of racism and racist violence – if our leaders are willing to act.”
The op-ed can be viewed in full here.