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Friday, Aug 01, 2014
Editorials

No justification for federal charges

Published:

Civil rights groups and even Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are urging the Justice Department to pursue a federal case against George Zimmerman, who was acquitted by a Florida jury in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford.

We see no purpose in the agency trying to prove Zimmerman committed a hate crime.

The state trial did not reveal a racial motive. Contrary to early misleading media reports, Zimmerman described Martin as black only after being asked by a 911 operator.

Zimmerman did think the teenager, who was returning from a convenience store, was up to no good in a neighborhood where a number of homes had been burglarized. But there has been no suggestion Zimmerman set out to shoot anyone, particularly because of their race.

By following Martin against the instructions of the 911 official, Zimmerman precipitated a tragic encounter.

But poor judgment is not a hate crime. Even Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged as much.

CNN reports that last year Holder said, "For a federal hate crime we have to prove the highest standard in the law. Something that was reckless, that was negligent does not meet that standard. We have to show that there was specific intent to do the crime with requisite state of mind."

Unless there is evidence that was not revealed during the trial, it would be impossible for federal prosecutors to make such a case against Zimmerman. A trial would only waste tax dollars and inflame emotions.

In addition, the Justice Department's objectivity in the case is questionable. Last week legal watchdog Judicial Watch revealed documents it claimed showed an agency within the Justice Department was deployed to Sanford to help organize rallies seeking Zimmerman's prosecution.

Justice officials say its representatives simply sought to reduce tension. Still, the possibility the Justice Department was pressuring state and local officials to charge Zimmerman merits more scrutiny.

Trayvon Martin's death was a tragedy.

But the jury carefully weighed all the evidence and concluded that Zimmerman committed no crime.

A federal trial won't change the evidence and is unlikely to produce a different outcome.

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