Hate Crime Laws And Double Jeopardy
The first mistake was reading more about George Zimmerman. PG went ahead, and read REPORT: FBI May Charge George Zimmerman With Hate Crime, Could Face Death Penalty. PG thought this was a bit weird, and did some research.
The FBI has a list of Federal Civil Rights Statutes. On several of these laws, the phrase “may be sentenced to death” appears. This expression does not appear in the description of “Title 18, U.S.C., Section 249 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act.” This is the most recent expansion of the Federal Hate Crimes legislation. It expands the definition of hate crimes to include LGTB cases. (This possibility that Trayvon Martin was killed for being gay has not been mentioned.) The Matthew Shepard Act was added onto a defense spending bill, and signed into law October 28, 2009.
PG is not a lawyer. Reading legislation and court opinions makes his head hurt. He is not sure which of the hate crime laws would apply to George Zimmerman. The idea of Mr. Zimmerman being poisoned by the Federal government is unlikely.
There is another aspect of application of hate crime law to this case that is troubling. If you believe that Mr. Zimmerman is an icky person, who deserves whatever happens to him, this might not bother you. The trouble with crazy laws, meant for icky people, is that they might be applied to you some day. Mobs demanding vengeance are not known for careful thinking.
Does federal hate crime prosecution constitute double jeopardy? The idea is that if you are acquited of a crime, you should not be tried again for the same offense. What appears to be happening is the federal government supervising the state government, and if the verdict is not satisfactory, bringing more charges.
Other people are asking the same question. National Review Online posted Hate Crimes, Thought Crimes, Double Jeopardy. This article was written while the Matthew Shepard Act was in Congress. It was before the skittles shooting. “Among other things, the bill permits the U.S. Attorney General to initiate federal hate-crime prosecution in cases where “the verdict or sentence obtained pursuant to State charges left demonstratively unvindicated the Federal interest in eradicating bias-motivated violence.” In other words, if the Feds don’t like the state verdict, they will bring their own charges.
Another commenter notes “The bill would allow people who have been found innocent of a hate crime in state court to be reprosecuted in federal court. Many supporters of the federal hate crimes bill want to allow people who have been found innocent of a hate crime in state court to be reprosecuted in federal court. As one supporter put it, “the federal hate crimes bill serves as a vital safety valve in case a state hate-crimes prosecution fails.” The claim that the justice system has “failed” when a jury returns a not-guilty verdict is truly scary and contrary to the constitutional presumption of innocence and the right to trial by jury.
But it is a view widely shared among supporters of the hate-crimes bill. Syndicated columnist Jacob Sullum pointed out in 1998 that Janet Reno, Clinton’s Attorney General, backed the bill as a way of providing a federal “forum” for prosecution if prosecutors fail to obtain a conviction “in the state court.” Similarly, The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights wants to reprosecute teenagers who were found innocent of a hate crime against an illegal alien in a Pennsylvania state court.
As Sullum noted, the federal hate crimes bill exploits a loophole in constitutional protections against double jeopardy, known as the “dual sovereignty” doctrine. The Supreme Court created this loophole in its 5-to-4 Bartkus decision. (The original post has several links that provide more information.)
Pictures are from the ” Special Collections and Archives,Georgia State University Library”