The killing of Trayvon Martin, a black Florida teen, which occurred on February 26th in the town of Sanford, has sparked not only national attention from the public and the media, but also the federal government. According to The Washington Post, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) may bring a hate crime charge against the suspect, George Zimmerman, who is the neighborhood watch captain who shot and killed Martin. Whether or not a federal hate crime charge is brought depends on the results of the investigation and whether or not the state of Florida presses charges. If the suspect is charged with a hate crime at the state level, the U.S. DOJ may or may not press federal charges.
Martin's family and supporters are crying out for the arrest of Zimmerman and contend that the incident occurred because Martin was black. For the incident to qualify as a hate crime, however, there must be enough evidence proving that the killing was motivated by racial bias and was not just a fight that spun out of control. The public only knows of one such piece of evidence as of yet, which is a recording of one of Zimmerman's 9-1-1 calls where he seems to be muttering a racial slur. According to a Drexel University law professor, if what Zimmerman muttered was in fact a racial epithet, then the incident was obviously a hate crime. Others, however, believe the recording to be too unclear to establish without a doubt that the suspect did utter a racial slur.
Even if the recording was clear, many experts say that additional evidence is necessary to prove that Zimmerman harbored racial prejudice and pursued and attacked Martin for that reason alone. This may be difficult to prove as the suspect's suspicions of Martin could have been based on the fact that the complex which he patrolled had been burglarized by young black males. Furthermore, several black residents of Sanford only have positive things to say about Zimmerman.
If you have been accused of a hate crime or any other criminal offense in Florida, you have the right to legal representation. Contact the experienced Florida criminal defense lawyers in Florida at Musca Law today at (888) 484-5057 to learn more about how we can protect your legal rights.