The Justice Department would have a strong civil rights case against George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin, if it chooses to file charges, Earl Ofari Hutchinson says in a piece for the Huffington Post.
The moment George Zimmerman was acquitted, the NAACP and the Reverend Al Sharpton immediately called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to bring civil rights charges against him. The Justice Department has already conducted an exhaustive investigation to determine whether Zimmerman killed Martin out of racial animus. It found no evidence of that. That's one hard and fast requisite for a civil rights prosecution. The other is that the state so bungled the prosecution of a defendant that in effect it nullified the intent of the law, namely to insure that justice was truly served. On the surface, this doesn't appear to be the case with Zimmerman.
Still, the call for Holder to strongly consider a federal prosecution is the right call. There are several factors within federal law that federal prosecutors must look at to determine whether there is a "compelling interest" in a second prosecution of a defendant who's been acquitted in a state court. It must involve a substantial federal interest, the state prosecution must not have vindicated that interest, the government must believe that the defendant's conduct could constitute a federal offense, and that there is still sufficient evidence against the defendant that the government can obtain a conviction.
There are clear elements of each of these hard federal prosecution requirements in the Zimmerman case. The compelling interest is probably the easiest of the requisites to satisfy. The defense and prosecution agreed that Martin did not commit a crime, was not even suspected of a crime, and was on a public thoroughfare when he was killed. The right to freedom of movement without the danger of undue harm is a fundamental right that's enshrined in constitutional law and public policy. It's inviolate. The courts have repeatedly upheld a citizen's right to freedom of access and movement in public places.
Read Earl Ofari Hutchinson’s entire piece at the Huffington Post.
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