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Earl Ofari Hutchinson's take on the politics of the day


The Hutchinson Report


Eight Compelling Reasons for a Federal Prosecution of Zimmerman




The moment the NAACP, the   Reverend Al Sharpton and other civil rights organizations publicly demanded   that the Justice Department conduct a federal probe into the Trayvon Martin   slaying and George Zimmerman’s acquittal for killing him with a view toward   bringing civil rights charges against him, volumes were written and spoken as   to why the department supposedly couldn’t or shouldn’t prosecute him. There’s   one problem with all this. Most argue that charging Zimmerman with a hate   crime in the Martin killing won’t fly because there’s no basis for that from   the apparent evidence. But that’s not the only reason, in fact there are   eight of them, the Justice Department can consider a “compelling federal   interest” in prosecuting a defendant after a failed state prosecution, They are   clearly spelled out in the Justice Department’s guidelines under the   subsection: “Initiating and declining Charges—Substantial Federal Interest.”

1. Federal Law Enforcement Priorities.   The Justice Department will prosecute only cases that it deems “are most   deserving of federal attention.” A US attorney in a jurisdiction has much   discretion as to the priorities for prosecuting a case and how a prosecution   fits in with the department’s priorities. This means that Robert O’Neill, US Attorney   for Florida’s Middle District that covers Sanford, Florida, has the leeway   and authority to decide that a Zimmerman prosecution not only deserves   federal attention but does not violate the department’s established   priorities.

2. The Nature and Seriousness of   Offense. The US attorney must consider the “nature and seriousness of the   offense” in deciding whether to prosecute or not. The major factor that   determines that is “the   actual or potential impact of the offense on the community and on the victim.”  The Justice Department spells out exactly   what that means. It means economic harm to the community, physical danger to   citizens, and erosion of citizen’s peace of mind and security. Zimmerman’s   acquittal squarely fits each of these criteria in in terms of lasting damage   to the community, erosion of confidence to secure that peace resulting from   the state’s failed prosecution, and the danger of vigilantism in the   Zimmerman’s jury’s  upholding of an   individual’s right to use deadly force solely because they presume that their   life is in danger. Further, the rules spell out that the circumstances of the   offense, the identity of the offender and the odious publicity in the case   that create strong public sentiment in favor of prosecution must be weighed. The   Zimmerman acquittal fits all three circumstances.

3. Deterrent Effect of Prosecution.   The goal here is to insure that criminal conduct not be encouraged or   furthered by a failed prosecution. The right to kill or maim an individual   based on the perpetrator’s perception of danger as the department notes if   unpunished would “commonly have a substantial cumulative impact on the   community.”

4. The   Person’s Culpability. The department must judge that the accused has some   culpability in the commission of an act. The one indisputable fact in the   Martin slaying is that Zimmerman initiated the confrontation by targeting   Martin as a “suspect” and then following him. This establishes Zimmerman’s   clear culpability in the deadly train of events that followed.

5. The Person’s Criminal History. Zimmerman has a   criminal history. Both of his arrests, for domestic violence and resisting a   police officer, involved violence. Federal prosecutors are duty bound to consider that   history in determining whether to initiate or recommend prosecution and most   importantly does the prior violence have a relationship to the charged   offense. Zimmerman’s offenses involved violence and therefore that fits in   with the rule that this past must be weighed in the decision to prosecute.

6. The   Person’s Willingness to Cooperate. There is absolutely no hint that Zimmerman   would be willing to cooperate in any federal probe into his conduct or   actions that fateful night. His and his attorney’s public statements   following the acquittal have been marked by defiance, baiting of the   prosecutor’s case, and even gloating at the acquittal.

7. The   Person’s Personal Circumstances. The circumstances that may preclude against   a prosecution are youth, old age, mental or physical impairment. Zimmerman   fits none of these personal circumstances. However, if federal prosecutors   determine that the accused “occupied a position of trust or responsibility   which he/she violated in committing the offense” this would be a strong   factor in favor of a prosecution.  Much   was made that Zimmerman was at least at one time a sworn neighborhood watch captain   and though his status as neighborhood guardian was dubious at best when he   killed Martin, the strong presumption was that he acted as a neighborhood   guardian—authorized or not.

8. The   Probable Sentence. If Zimmerman had been convicted on any charge no matter   how minor, federal prosecutors almost certainly would not consider a   prosecution. It would not justify the government’s time or resources. But the   fact is that he wasn’t. So this is a non-factor against considering a federal   prosecution.

The   legion of Zimmerman defenders and legal naysayers of a federal prosecution   have no need to read the actual federal guidelines that determine when   federal prosecutors can bring a second prosecution because their goal is not   to adhere to the actual provisions that govern a federal prosecution but   spout their pro Zimmerman legal biases.    Federal prosecutors, however, have that duty. And there are eight compelling   reasons they have to prosecute Zimmerman.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.   His new ebook is America on Trial: The   Slaying of Trayvon Martin (Amazon).   He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the   Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the   weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and   the Pacifica Network.

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Earl Ofari Hutchinson, national commentator and radio host, slices through the political spin to provide insight on today's news.

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