Is Hate Crime Case Possible Against Trayvon Martin Killer?


The U.S. Justice Department could bring a hate crime charge against George Zimmerman in the killing of black Florida teenager Trayvon Martin if there is sufficient evidence the slaying was motivated by racial bias and not simply a fight that spiraled out of control, legal experts and former prosecutors tell the Associated Press. Only one such clue has surfaced publicly against Zimmerman, 28, the neighborhood watch captain who fatally shot Martin, 17, on Feb. 26 in Sanford. On a 911 call, Zimmerman muttered something that some say sounds like a racial slur. “It sounds pretty obvious to me,” said law Prof. Donald Tibbs of Drexel University. “If that was a racial epithet that preceded the attack on Trayvon Martin, we definitely have a hate crime.” Others say the recording is not clear.

Experts say more evidence would be needed that he harbored racial prejudice against black people and went after Martin for that reason alone. “They are going to have to show he was specifically targeting this individual based on his race, creed, color, et cetera,” said former federal prosecutor David Weinstein. NPR reported that it seemed unlikely that federal hate crime charges would be filed in the case.

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