Shortly after George Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, President Obama released a statement in which he said “we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son.”
Those words from America’s first black President effectively marginalized any other black leader who might have urged riots or vigilante justice. Obama deserves credit for his call for respect and reflection.
Of course he could not leave it at that. He had to politicize the trial — again — this time by connecting it to his push for gun control. Moreover, the U.S. Justice Department continues to pursue a possible civil rights case against Zimmerman, contradicting the President’s admonition to respect the jury verdict.
The killing of Trayvon Martin was a tragic event that never should have happened. Zimmerman should have listened to the police. He is free because the state failed to prove its case against him beyond a reasonable doubt. Whether that is justice is a matter of debate, but it was the correct application of the law.
Pursuing a federal civil rights case against Zimmerman would further undermine trust in our justice system by making clear that jury trials are merely preliminary rounds in legal contests between parties of different racial backgrounds, and that the real final say is to be had in Washington by whichever party has friends in the administration.