Would Civil Rights Charges Against Zimmerman Be Constitutional?


Now that George Zimmerman has been acquitted of murder charges resulting from his shooting of Trayvon Martin, the race baiters who have turned this case into a political piñata are demanding federal civil rights charges.

“It goes to the Justice Department,” Al Sharpton said. “Clearly there are grounds for civil rights charges here. The mother and father of Trayvon Martin and I, with their lawyers, met with the U.S. attorney in Florida the day I went down there to organize the first national rally there. And we always said there would be a plan B, but there needed to be a plan A.”

The NAACP is also asking President Obama to pursue federal charges against Zimmerman.

But does the government get a “plan B” after a jury has acquitted?

The 5th amendment seems clear on the matter: “No person shall…be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.”

That protection, enshrined in the Bill of Rights, was intended to protect against these very sort of shenanigans. The framers wanted to protect citizens from prosecutorial harassment in the form of one charge filed after another for the same offense. If not for the 5th amendment, those accused not guilty of their crimes could still be tied up in court endlessly even after acquittal by the government trying to apply different charges to the same offense.

There is the “dual sovreignty” doctrine which states that “an act denounced as a crime by both national and state sovereignties is an offense against the peace and dignity of both and may be punished by each,” but that’s an invention of the courts, not something to be found in the constitution.

Our system provides the government with one stab at a jury trial. In Florida, the state couldn’t disprove Zimmerman’s claim of self defense.

They lost. It’s time to move on.

Rob Port

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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