Will Zimmerman face federal civil-rights charges?
The not-guilty verdict in George Zimmerman’s trial for second-degree murder and manslaughter is not the end of the legal story. There are still a few court cases to pursue, including a few that may emanate from Zimmerman’s camp, such as a defamation lawsuit against NBC News for doctoring audiotapes to make Zimmerman sound like a racist. Zimmerman attorney James Beasley is quoted in the Washington Post saying his team plans to “start in earnest ASAP” on this lawsuit. Incidentally, the Post also quotes NBC’s remarkable defense of its creative video editing, issued before the verdict was handed down on Saturday:
NBC Universal Media responded to the Zimmerman complaint by noting that other media outlets played up the racial angle of Zimmerman’s deadly encounter with Trayvon Martin.
The company also noted the pivotal nature of the second-degree murder case: “[I]f Zimmerman is convicted, that fact alone will constitute substantial evidence that the destruction of his reputation is the result of his own criminal conduct, and not of the broadcasts at issue which, like countless other news reports disseminated by media entities throughout the country, reported on the underlying events.”
In other words, it’s OK for the media to lie outrageously and slander someone, provided they go on to lose at trial? It would do the deeply sick world of left-wing agenda journalism a world of good if Zimmerman sued NBC “News” into oblivion, and taught the rest of them a stern lesson, but this sort of thing usually ends in a settlement.
There’s also the high probability of a civil suit from Trayvon Martin’s family against Zimmerman. ABC News reviewed this option in a piece bizarrely entitled “George Zimmerman Could Face Civil Suits, Death Threats, Federal Prosecution.” What do you mean, “could face death threats,” ABC? The man is positively buried under them. New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz just had to apologize for venturing his opinion that “Zimmerman doesn’t last a year before the hood catches up to him.”
On the subject of that civil suit, ABC says this:
According to Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Trayvon Martin’s family, the parents of the slain teenager are considering additional legal options, including whether to sue Zimmerman in civil court.
“They are certainly going to look at that as an option,” Crump said on ABC’s “This Week.” “They deeply want a sense of justice. They deeply don’t want their son’s death to be in vain.”
The Orlando Sentinel reported in April that Martin’s parents had settled a wrongful-death claim against the homeowners association of the Sanford, Fla., subdivision where their son was killed.
ABC doesn’t mention that the amount of that settlement with the homeowner’s association was probably north of a million dollars; the Martin family had previously rejected a million-dollar offer.
Bloomberg Businessweek reviews the considerably easier standards for victory in a civil suit:
In a wrongful death action against Zimmerman, Martin’s family would need to show he was culpable only by a preponderance of the evidence, according to Peter Grenier, a personal injury lawyer at Bode & Grenier LLP in Washington. The criminal case and acquittal, decided on the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt, would be irrelevant to the civil suit under Florida law, Grenier said.
O.J. Simpson, who was acquitted of murder in the stabbing deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ron Goldman, was order to pay $33.5 million after losing a wrongful death trial.
Florida is a comparative fault state, meaning jurors would weigh both Martin’s and Zimmerman’s culpability.
In Florida, wrongful death suits claiming negligence must be filed within two years, while there’s no time limit for suits alleging intentional death. Most cases claim negligence so damages can be covered by the defendant’s homeowner’s insurance, Grenier said.
How does that work, if the homeowner’s association and their insurance company have already reached a six-figure settlement with the Martin family? It sounds like the Zimmerman defense team would have their work cut out for them, if they have to prove virtually zero culpability on Zimmerman’s part to avoid a judgement against him.
Then there’s the matter of that federal civil-rights prosecution, which the professional grievance industry is already thundering loudly for. The big problem, as a report at the McClatchy news service notes, is that “after interviewing nearly three dozen people in the George Zimmerman murder case, the FBI found no evidence that racial bias was a motivating factor in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.”
Even the lead detective in the case, Sanford Det. Chris Serino, told agents that he thought Zimmerman profiled Trayvon because of his attire and the circumstances — but not his race.
Serino saw Zimmerman as “having little hero complex, but not as a racist.”
[...] Federal agents interviewed Zimmerman’s neighbors and co-workers, but none said Zimmerman had expressed racial animus at any time prior to the Feb. 26 shooting of Martin, a black teen, in a confrontation at a Sanford housing complex. As Sanford police investigated the circumstances of Martin’s death, the FBI opened a parallel probe to determine if Martin’s civil rights had been violated.
Several co-workers said they had never seen Zimmerman display any prejudice or racial bias.
Two co-workers told agents they spoke with Zimmerman the day after the shooting, and both said they noticed injuries to Zimmerman’s nose and the back of his head. One person said Zimmerman was “absolutely devastated.”
The Justice Department has nevertheless released a statement that a federal investigation of Zimmerman remains in progress: ”The department continues to evaluate the evidence generated during the federal investigation, as well as the evidence and testimony from the state trial.” As ABC News noted, they’re under a lot of pressure to bring racecrime and thoughtcrime charges:
“Today, justice failed Trayvon Martin and his family,” said Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman of the NAACP. “We call immediately for the Justice Department to conduct an investigation into the civil rights violations committed against Trayvon Martin. This case has re-energized the movement to end racial profiling in the United States.”
An NAACP petition calling for a federal prosecution of Zimmerman has collected more than 350,000 signatures — some 225,000 on the NAACP site and another 130,000 where it was posted online in the NAACP’s partnership with MoveOn.org.
But will the Administration bring those charges if it knows they probably won’t stick? At this point, the last thing Obama’s Justice Department needs is a mob howling for their heads because they look incompetent. And they probably won’t relish the discovery phase of such a trial, when Zimmerman’s team might ask some pointed questions about those taxpayer-funded DOJ agents provocateur sent to help the “Justice for Trayvon” crowd get organized last year.
At some point, there might also be a backlash from law-abiding citizens who grow queasy about the endless persecution of George Zimmerman. There was broad public support for the trial that just wrapped up, but there might be considerably less support for eternally re-running the trial until a pre-ordained “correct” verdict is reached. Both the Martin family’s civil suit, and a prospective federal civil-rights action, would dig into Trayvon Martin’s past and personality more than the second-degree murder trial did. That sounds like a recipe for more civil strife, and more anguish for his family.