Obama Wants You to Respect the Zimmerman Verdict, But That Does Not Mean He Will


Video via The Orlando Sentinel

Yesterday President Obama urged Americans dismayed by George Zimmerman's acquittal to respect the jury's verdict:

The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. 

But Obama's stance against rioting does not necessarily mean that he is prepared to accept the outcome of this case. The New York Times reports that his Justice Department is looking into the possibility of trying Zimmerman again for the same crime. Sounds like double jeopardy, doesn't it? Not according to the Supreme Court, which says serial prosecutions do not violate the Fifth Amendment as long as they are undertaken by different levels of government. The rationale for federal intervention in this case would be that Zimmerman targeted Martin based on his race, thereby committing a "hate crime," which under current law is pretty much all the Justice Department needs to get involved.

The evidence of racial animus was so thin in this case that the judge did not allow the prosecution to mention it, so it's highly doubtful that the feds can show, or even plausibly allege, that Zimmerman was motivated by bigotry. Furthermore, the jury acquitted him based on a self-defense claim, meaning he is not guilty of attacking Martin, let alone attacking him because he did not care for his skin color. The Obama administration's willingness to consider a second prosecution means it is prepared to say the state jurors got it wrong and try to override their decision. So much for respecting the verdict.