Three Reasons to Reject Federal Hate Crime Charges Against George Zimmerman


WFTV, the ABC affiliate in Orlando, reports that the FBI is looking for evidence to support federal hate crime charges against George Zimmerman for shooting Trayvon Martin on February 26. Three reasons it should stop:

1. There is very little evidence that Zimmerman hates black people, let alone that he shot Martin because he hates black people.

2. In the absence of a legal justification (such as self-defense), killing people should be a crime, but hating them because of their skin color should not be. By treating crimes more severely when they are motivated by bigotry, hate crime laws effectively punish people for their beliefs.

3. Federal hate crime laws are even worse, because they expose defendants to double jeopardy (although the courts deny this reality by calling it "dual sovereignty"). The federal investigation means that even if a Florida jury acquits Zimmerman of second-degree murder and manslaughter, he can be tried again for the same crime (killing Martin) under a different label (a possibility I noted two months ago).

Meanwhile, ABC reports that newly revealed medical evidence supports Zimmerman's self-defense claim:

A medical report compiled by the family physician of Trayvon Martin shooter George Zimmerman and obtained exclusively by ABC News found that Zimmerman was diagnosed with a "closed fracture" of his nose, a pair of black eyes, two lacerations to the back of his head and a minor back injury the day after he fatally shot Martin during an alleged altercation….

The record shows that Zimmerman also suffered bruising in the upper lip and cheek and lower back pain. The two lacerations on the back of his head, one of them nearly an inch long, the other about a quarter-inch long, were first revealed in photos obtained exclusively by ABC News last month.

These injuries, the very existence of which lawyers for Martin's family questioned, are consistent with Zimmerman's story, although hardly conclusive evidence that he is telling the truth about his fight with Martin. But if this evidence, together with everything else Zimmerman presents in his defense, persuades a jury to acquit him, the Justice Department reserves the right to try, try again. Should Zimmerman be convicted of murder as a federal hate crime, WFTV notes, "he could face the death penalty."