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Will the feds go after George Zimmerman?
After Zimmerman's acquittal on murder charges, Eric Holder's Justice Department is under pressure to accuse him of violating Trayvon Martin's civil rights
 
Attorney General Eric Holder is under a lot of pressure to press charges. But how would DOJ prove George Zimmerman's motivation was based on race?
Attorney General Eric Holder is under a lot of pressure to press charges. But how would DOJ prove George Zimmerman's motivation was based on race? Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Now that George Zimmerman has been acquitted on murder and manslaughter charges for the killing of Trayvon Martin, activists are urging the Justice Department to file a case accusing Zimmerman, who is white and Latino, of violating the unarmed black teenager's civil rights. Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday called Martin's death "unnecessary," and said he shared the concern of those upset over the verdict, promising that his department would review the evidence to see if civil rights charges were warranted.

Many Americans, convinced that Zimmerman stalked and confronted Martin because of his race, think the feds will go after Zimmerman. The NAACP posted an online petition demanding a federal civil rights case, and its website crashed as people rushed to sign. Elaine Radford at The Inquisitr says this is the logical next step.

When an armed man can hunt down an unarmed teenager while on the telephone with a 911 dispatcher, kill the teen, and then walk away free, I think it's fair to assume that there's a serious problem with justice in the jurisdiction where the event took place.

Therefore, it's my humble opinion that federal authorities have little option but to come in from outside the troubled community to file the rumored George Zimmerman civil rights case against the self-appointed neighborhood watchman. [The Inquisitr]

Others say the Justice Department will take a careful look at the evidence — it has to, given the intense pressure — but in the end will decide against pursuing the case. Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post says, "A federal prosecution on civil rights charges would be a mistake; the state trial failed to show adequate evidence of racial animus to sustain such a case."

There is no evidence that race played a role in Zimmerman's acquittal. If anything, the racial undertones worked against Zimmerman, increasing public pressure on prosecutors to bring the most serious — and, in hindsight, the most difficult to support — charges against him. [Washington Post]

Many legal experts say that even if the Justice Department does file a case, it can't win. Noah Feldman at Bloomberg News says it might seem open and shut — the law says it's a a federal crime to attack someone due to their race. "Yet how, exactly," he asks, "would the federal government prove Zimmerman’s motivation?"

Even if a jury accepted that Zimmerman suspected Martin and pursued him because of his race, the defense attorneys would argue that the actual shooting was motivated by self-defense, not race. And one jury already apparently bought some version of the self-defense story. [Bloomberg]

 
Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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