The trial of George Zimmerman should be taught in law schools and elsewhere as a prime example of one of the most mishandled and politically motivated prosecutions in recent U.S. history…
[P]rosecutors waited months before giving the defense photos showing the extent of George Zimmerman’s injuries the night of the shooting. Ben Kruidbos, the information-technology director for the state attorney’s office, was shocked when he learned that prosecutors hadn’t turned over to the defense evidence of photos and text messages that Kruidbos had recovered from Martin’s cell phone. The photos included images of a pile of jewelry on a bed, underage nude females, marijuana, and a hand menacingly holding a semiautomatic weapon…
In addition, Corey’s deputies interviewed key witnesses with Trayvon Martin’s family present. Jonathan Turley, a self-proclaimed liberal and a law professor at George Washington University, called such behavior “a highly unusual and improper practice.”…
Here’s hoping that the tensions and anger stirred up by the Trayvon Martin case subside instead of being inflamed by a rogue Justice Department. But let’s not forget the prosecutorial abuse the trial has revealed. If a criminal-justice system can be hijacked for political purposes, it can also be misused in other cases and at other times. Of course, it was important to thoroughly review Trayvon Martin’s death. But allowing politically correct prosecutors to cross bright lines limiting their behavior only politicizes our system and helps no one except demagogues and cable-TV talking heads in search of ratings.
Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a news conference at the Orange County Courthouse that she has been in frequent contact with federal justice officials and is confident they have been building a case that could lead either to a civil rights violation charge or a hate crime charge against Zimmerman. The two charges come from different laws…
A jury acquitted Zimmerman Saturday on state charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter. While any federal case might face an even tougher burden of proof, Arnwine said she thinks federal investigators might not be discouraged.
“The Justice Department conducted several, many, multiple interviews of witnesses. They collected their own evidence from the crime scene. … So their evidence isn’t the same nor is it identical to the state’s,” Arnwine said.
Before his brother was charged following Trayvon’s February 2012 death, those who wanted George Zimmerman taken into custody said, “we just want an arrest, we just want simple justice,” Robert Zimmerman . “Then there was an arrest after much clamor. And then the rallying cry was, ‘well we just want him to have his fair day in court, that’s all this was ever about; his fair day in court and let the jury decide.’ And then he had his day in court.”
Now, Robert Zimmerman said, “the jury’s made a decision and the goal posts are moving again. I don’t understand what people want or how much more they want to trash my brother for something that is a very straight forward act of self-defense.”
What federal law has Zimmerman violated? Why should the federal government intervene in murder, the prosecution of which is the job of the states? The main civil-rights laws are targeted at defendants who deprive others of their federal rights acting under “color of law” — i.e., acting on behalf of the state…
If Zimmerman was motivated by racial bias — however reprehensible that would be if true — it is still difficult for me to see the interest and power of the federal government at stake. Zimmerman could claim that the federal government has no constitutional authority to pursue him, and might even have a fair chance to litigate that up the federal courts — maybe all the way to the Supremes.
Here’s a listing of the criminal statutes enforced by the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ. Take a good look and see if there’s anything that could even come close to applying to Zimmerman. It’s hard to see what federal right was violated — unless one thinks it’s the right to life, in which case the Justice Department should be investigating every murder in the country where the victim is a minority.
Martin, meanwhile, was profiling Zimmerman. On his phone, he told a friend he was being followed by a “creepy-ass cracker.” The friend—who later testified that this phrase meant pervert—advised Martin, “You better run.” She reported, as Zimmerman did, that Martin challenged Zimmerman, demanding to know why he was being hassled. If Zimmerman’s phobic misreading of Martin was the first wrong turn that led to their fatal struggle, Martin’s phobic misreading of Zimmerman may have been the second.
In court, evidence and scrutiny have exposed these difficult, complicated truths. But outside the court, ideologues are ignoring them. They’re oversimplifying a tragedy that was caused by oversimplification. Martin has become Emmett Till. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is using the verdict to attack Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which wasn’t invoked in this case. The grievance industrial complex is pushing the Department of Justice to prosecute Zimmerman for bias-motivated killing, based on evidence that didn’t even support a conviction for unpremeditated killing. Zimmerman’s lawyers have teamed up with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, inadvertently, to promote the false message that Zimmerman’s acquittal means our society thinks everything he did was OK.
It wasn’t OK. It was stupid and dangerous. It led to the unnecessary death of an innocent young man. It happened because two people—their minds clouded by stereotypes that went well beyond race—assumed the worst about one another and acted in haste. If you want to prevent the next Trayvon Martin tragedy, learn from their mistakes. Don’t paint the world in black and white. Don’t declare the whole justice system racist, or blame every gun death on guns, or confuse acquittal with vindication. And the next time you see somebody who looks like a punk or a pervert, hold your fire.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t draw my own personal conclusions, like my belief that George Zimmerman is a racist idiot who chased an unarmed teenager through a neighborhood for little reason more than he was a black man wearing a hoodie. I can also conclude that many conservative commentators were offensive in their reflexive defense of Zimmerman, as well as their efforts to attack the integrity of a dead black teenager. I am also not sure how it is that the right-wing’s professional chattering classes usually find themselves on the other side of African-Americans in racially sensitive cases.
I do not remotely suggest that all conservatives opposed Zimmerman’s trial. The National Review’s Rich Lowry agreed with a handful of conservatives like myself that Trayvon Martin’s killer should be tried in a court of law. But I remained confused by a political party that desperately tries to expand its minority outreach by considering the granting of citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants while refusing to even give the benefit of the doubt to a young black man gunned down for no good reason in a suburban Florida neighborhood. I just don’t get it.
What I do get is why over 90 percent of African American voters have been voting against GOP presidential candidates for most of my life. Conservative commentary and GOP stand-your-ground laws only exacerbated that divide. If Republicans are to take back the White House anytime in the next generation, that reality has to change. After this week, it has definitely become a longer, harder slog.
Both prosectors were asked to describe the defendant and Trayvon Martin in one word. Rionda called Zimmerman “lucky” and Martin a “victim,” while Corey described the former as a “murderer” and Martin his “prey.”
Asked whether he views this to be a “racial trial,” O’Mara said that it has “brought to the forefront racial questions that have to be answered in the criminal justice system,” despite his belief that Zimmerman did not act “at all in a racially-based way.” We need to have a conversation, the lawyer said, about the way young black males generally do not receive a fair trial.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Right, it is. She submitted an affidavit that was, if not perjurious, completely misleading. She violated all kinds of rules of the profession, and her conduct bordered on criminal conduct. She, by the way, has a horrible reputation in Florida. She’s known for overcharging, she’s known for being highly political. And in this case, of course she overcharged. Halfway through the trial she realized she wasn’t going to get a second degree murder verdict, so she asked for a compromised verdict, for manslaughter. And then, she went even further and said that she was going to charge him with child abuse and felony murder. That was such a stretch that it goes beyond anything professionally responsible. She was among the most irresponsible prosecutors I’ve seen in 50 years of litigating cases, and believe me, I’ve seen good prosecutors, bad prosecutors, but rarely have I seen one as bad as this prosecutor, [Angela] Corey.