There are three ways of looking at whether Zimmerman should be prosecuted in federal court

In the aftermath of the recent acquittal of George Zimmerman in a Florida court, a question looms as to whether he’ll now face federal charges of violating Trayvon Martin’s civil rights. It seems to me that there are three views on that matter — and two of them are fundamentally wrong. The first is the purely vengeful view of people who simply want Zimmerman to be punished under law — any law — for having killed Martin. The problem with that attitude is that it presumes, perhaps rashly,  that Zimmerman did, in fact, violate Martin’s rights. But the matter is not that simple. The burden of proof is considerable. It would have to be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman was motivated by racial bias. If that were actually the case, why couldn’t the prosecutors in the Florida trial convince the jurors of it? Why did they not even emphasize that issue? Why did they argue at one point that race was not an issue in this case? The second view is that a federal prosecution would amount to double jeopardy. But that, too, is a complicated matter. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says no person should “be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” But the Supreme Court has ruled that sometimes the same conduct — the killing of a person, for example — may violate two different statutes. The court has held that “where the same act or transaction constitutes a violation of two distinct statutory provisions, the test to be applied to determine whether there are two offenses or only one, is whether each provision requires proof of an additional fact which the other does not.” That distinction may — or may not — apply in the Zimmerman-Martin case. But I know of no cases in which prosecutions under the federal civil rights statute have been overturned on Fifth Amendment grounds. Which brings us to the third view — and the only valid view, as I see it — of whether Zimmerman should be prosecuted in federal court: Do federal prosecutors — or does a federal grand jury — see good evidence that Zimmerman violated a federal statute, namely the civil rights statute? If there is good evidence of such, it would be a miscarriage of justice to not prosecute Zimmerman in federal court. But that’s a very big...

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Is this a provocative front page or what?

I could take issue with some of the elements of this front page of the New York Daily News, but I’ll leave it to readers of this blog to have first dibbies.

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Surprise! Despite the media focus, most Americans were not very interested in the Zimmerman trial!

The charts above are explained HERE: The final days of the trial of George Zimmerman, which concluded July 13 with a verdict of not guilty, attracted relatively modest public interest overall. In a weekend survey, 26% say they were following news about the trial very closely. This is lower than interest in the initial controversy over Trayvon Martin’s shooting when it erupted last year. In March 2012, 35% said they followed news about Martin’s shooting very closely. However, the story has consistently attracted far more interest among blacks than whites – and that remained the case in the trial’s final days. Blacks are more than twice as likely as whites to say they tracked news about the Zimmerman trial very closely (56% vs. 20%). Moreover, fully 67% of blacks say they watched at least some live coverage of the Zimmerman trial, compared with 38% of whites. About one-in-five blacks (21%) say they watched “almost all’’ of the trial coverage; just 5% of whites reported watching almost all of it… Blacks have consistently expressed more interest than whites in Trayvon Martin’s shooting and the prosecution and trial of George Zimmerman. Currently 56% of blacks and just 20% of whites say they followed news about the trial very closely. Racial differences in interest about Martin’s shooting and its aftermath are wider than in interest in the police beating of Rodney King in March 1991, as well as the acquittal of the officers and subsequent riots in May 1992. The racial gap in interest in Martin/Zimmerman news also is wider than in O.J. Simpson’s arrest in June 1994 and his trial a year...

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Here’s a big roundup of reactions to the Zimmerman verdict in the right-wing blogosphere

Nobody mocks the right-wing blogosphere with the same delicious snarkiness that the inimitable Roy Edroso brings to the task. Edroso’s SURVEY of wingnut reactions to the jury verdict in the George Zimmerman case includes scores of links (the reading of which could take up much of your afternoon) and a few paragraphs of overview, such as these: There has been a slew of commentary on the verdict, some of it actually thoughtful and conciliatory. Needless to say, this does not apply to that of most of our rightblogger friends, who have from the beginning considered the case a terrible injustice toward white people, and are currently pretty happy that someone got away with shooting an unarmed black kid to death. But there’s something spoiling their happiness. No, not concern for the dead kid’s family — come on, look who we’re talking about. It’s mainly the hate and fear that made them so crazy about this case from the...

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Before long, the Zimmerman case will be mostly forgotten

In the 36 hours or so since a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman of wrongdoing in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, I’ve read and heard hundreds of reactions to the verdict and speculations on how the aftermath of the case will play out. I’ve read that Zimmerman might well become an enduring hero to right-wing vigilante types — or, conversely, that the rest of his life will be that of a pariah. My own sense of the matter is that the case will quickly recede from public consciousness. We live in an age of media sensationalism, and there will soon be other stuff that will dominate public attention. In a year or so, perhaps even sooner, George Zimmerman will fade from public memory. Fewer and fewer people will have any clear recollection of the details in his case. Before long, if he adopts a different hair style and grows a beard, Zimmerman will be able to travel about without being recognized — if he so chooses. All of this somehow reminds me of the case of William Calley, a U.S. Army lieutenant who was convicted of murdering 22 Vietnamese civilians in 1968, but spent virtually no time in jail for his crimes. A court-martial jury of six Army officers, five of whom had served in Vietnam, found Calley guilty of murder charges in connection with the infamous My Lai Massacre. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and  hard labor at Fort Leavenworth. But on the day after Calley was sentenced, then-President Richard Nixon ordered him transferred from Leavenworth to house arrest at Fort Benning, Ga., pending appeal. In other words, Calley was confined to an apartment rather than a jail cell. He was free to drink alcohol, call out for pizza and entertain a girl friend. He just couldn’t leave the place. Four months later, Calley’s sentence was reduced from life to 20 years. Then the secretary of the Army reduced it to 10 years. Eventually, he was pardoned by Nixon after serving only three and a half years of house arrest. All of these proceedings stirred controversy among the American people, but eventually the entire matter was obscured by the Watergate scandal and other spectacles and was soon forgotten. William Calley is 70 years old now (that’s him in the photo above), and most Americans are unfamiliar with his name. His prosecution was said, at that time, to be a significant chapter in American history. But relatively few people now living know anything about it. The Zimmerman case, a minor matter compared to the Calley case, will fade from public consciousness much sooner than the My Lai Masssacre did.    ...

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