Feds Doubt They Can Charge Trayvon Martin's Killer

Hate crime laws may not cover Zimmerman

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 21, 2012 7:56 AM CDT

(Newser) – The FBI is investigating the death of Trayvon Martin, but internally, Justice Department lawyers doubt they can make a federal case out of it, the Washington Post reports. The federal government could potentially charge George Zimmerman under hate crime laws, and one Florida congresswoman is urging the department to do just that. But federal hate crime laws may be too narrow, one law professor says. Zimmerman may have been racially biased, he explained, but he also appeared to have other motives, "however misguided," such as thinking "Trayvon was involved in some kind of suspicious activity."

Even if federal charges never come, a local grand jury is looking into the case. Social media was buzzing yesterday with accusations that Zimmerman had muttered a racial epithet while on the phone with 911, but if so it is nearly inaudible, the Miami Herald reports. "I listened to that tape several times, and I never heard it before," said a police department spokesman. "I am quite sure the grand jury will listen to it." For more on the case, click here.

George Zimmerman is seen in police mug shot provided by the Orange County, Fla., Jail, via The Mimai Herald, from a 2005 arrest.
George Zimmerman is seen in police mug shot provided by the Orange County, Fla., Jail, via The Mimai Herald, from a 2005 arrest.   (AP Photo/Orange County Jail via Miami Herald)
This undated family photo shows Trayvon Martin.
This undated family photo shows Trayvon Martin.   (AP Photo/Martin Family, File)
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