Racial tint to trial doesn't resolve the larger issues

By: Jim Bensberg
July 21, 2013 Updated: July 21, 2013 at 7:35 am
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As the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial sinks into the collective consciousness of the nation and its neighbors around the world, we are all struggling to make sense of the tragic loss of Trayvon Martin's life, as well as how to prevent it from happening again in similar situations and whether it may be appropriate for the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue other legal action against Zimmerman.

From the beginning, there has been involvement from the top levels of federal government. President Obama opined that Martin would resemble his son, were he to have a son. Attention was thus focused on the question of race and what, if any, nudging would take place in a case that would not ordinarily have proceeded to trial in a state court.

In the aftermath of the acquittal, we are informed that an agency within the administration's Justice Department was actively involved in organizing and encouraging local groups in Florida to demand the matter be tried in court when it appeared likely no charges would be filed by the district attorney.

In a recent speech, Attorney General Eric Holder stopped short of announcing he would investigate whether Zimmerman engaged in racial profiling before the incident with Martin and whether such profiling amounts to a denial of Martin's civil rights.

It is clear that some in our national community are not only displeased with the verdict, but would like another bite at the apple of justice in a different arena. Are aging members of the 1960s civil rights movement the only agitators for another look at this case, or is there a significant movement among Americans of myriad heritages to bring Zimmerman back to trial for an intensive look at his state of mind prior to the shooting?

I would suggest that President Obama, as well as agenda-driven members of the mass media, gave this incident and the subsequent trial a racial tint from the very first news reports of the shooting. The question of racial bias is now front and center and will be continually debated regardless of the Department of Justice's action or inaction.

The question we should ask ourselves is, what purpose does it serve to dissect the motives of any individual in these types of cases when, in the instant case, no issue of race was raised by the prosecution? Holder said subsequent to Zimmerman's acquittal that "we must not forgo this opportunity to better understand one another."

Ultimately, in an ideal world, criminal proceedings should be free from bias, public pressure, and racial politics. It is perhaps understandable that some desire to prosecute this case from a different angle. At this point, however, it would seem not only counterproductive but extremely divisive to charge Zimmerman with a violation of federal civil rights law.


Jim Bensberg is a former El Paso County commissioner.

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